Terri, directed by Azazel Jacobs, concerns an obese 15-year-old, a de facto orphan, living in a ramshackle home with a dispirited, perhaps mentally ill uncle for whom he has to care. Although a near-pariah at school, Terri (Jacob Wysocki, in an impressive debut) is comfortable with himself, or at least self-defended, sauntering late into homeroom, still wearing his pajamas. Impervious to the imprecations of gym teachers and the taunts of the class bully, he is recruited for regular counseling by the school's friendly assistant principal, Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly). Like Mr. Fitzgerald, who apparently has unlimited time, Terri has a good heart — he also functions as the garrulous educator's straight man. Although temporarily put off once he realizes that Fitzgerald's specialty is counseling "monsters" like himself, Terri befriends pint-size Chad (Bridger Zadina), the most obnoxious of patients, and defends the sexually provocative Heather (Olivia Crocicchia) when she is ostracized for allowing the bully to finger her in home ec. There's very little here that's cute or quirky, although, given its subject, Terri is unavoidably didactic. In lesser hands, Terri might have been an exemplary instance of the after-school specials telecast throughout the filmmaker's childhood. But Jacobs has an empathetic feel for adolescent geekery, sleaze and embarrassment. The cast is spirited, the premise is honest, and the direction is sufficiently skillful to obscure most of the platitudes inherent in the material. —J. Hoberman
TERRI | Directed by AZAZEL JACOBS | Written by Patrick deWitt and Jacobs | ATO Pictures | Landmark, Playhouse, Town Center
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