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August 08, 2011 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-08-08

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Monday, August 8, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Edgy, honest story of
teenage trials: 'TERRI'

"What are you tookin' at, Homo sapien sapien?"
Apes Rise film plateaus

Prequel to 'Planet'
series leaves us
rooting for the apes
Daily Film Editor
We all know the story behind
the "Planet of the Apes" franchise.
Apes turn smart. Apes unite. Apes
rise up. Apes kill
all the humans
and take over the
world. The sur- The Rise of
viving humans
degenerate into the Planet
mute, mentally Of te d
disabled clowns ^F~
who fling their At Quality16
feces at pass- and Rave
ing apes. Tra- 20th Century Fox
ditionally, it's a
tale of irony and
with a lot of darkness and despair
brewing beneath the surface. But
in its latest attempt at a franchise
reboot, Fox turns this premise on
its head, releasing a heavy-hand-
ed, 105-minute PETA commercial
in which the schoolyard bully -
humanity - gets what it deserves.
Our hippy liberal tale of cli-
ched revelry begins in the big wild
jungle, where the evil humans
from the faceless drug conglom-
erate kidnap apes to do mean
evil experiments on. Well, not all
the humans are evil. Researcher
Will Rodman (James Franco,
"127 Hours") is actually a pretty

cool guy, who just wants to find
an Alzheimer's cure so his daddy
doesn't start pushing up daisies.
Less cool are Steven Jacobs (David
Oyelowo, TV's "MI-5"), the head
of giant conglomerate, who (gasp!)
wants his investment to turn a
profit, and animal "trainer" Dodge
Landon (Tom Felton, "Harry Pot-
ter and the Deathly Hallows: Part
2"), who (less sarcastic gasp!) tor-
tures captive apes for his sadistic
From there, we get a fairly rote,
predictable story in the same vein
as the original all-the-humans-
die premise, with a few preachy
tropes in between about how some
things aren't meant to be changed.
Meanwhile, the entire cast does its
best to deliberately shred audience
sympathy. Felton is particularly
hateable, giving the same, bratty,
immature performance we've seen
him give eight times as Draco Mal-
foy. Franco, who is supposedly the
human center of the film, gives a
flat, indifferent performance, less
Oscar-nominee and more stoned
Oscar host.
The apes are what save the
movie, making up for the emo-
tional dead weight of the human
characters. Caesar, Rodman's pri-
mary test subject, is a marvel of
modern effects technology. He's
played by motion-capture veteran
Andy Serkis, who brought King
Kong to life in Peter Jackson's
2005 remake and voiced Gollum
in Jackson's "Lord of the Rings"
trilogy, and for all intents and
purposes, looks like a real captive

ape. But he's also more than that.
Despite his simian origins, he's
the most humanized character in
the entire cast. His struggle for
freedom is a visceral tale, told effi-
ciently through actions and with
a minimum of cheesy talking-ani-
mal dialogue. We bond with Cae-
sar. We cringe as he's tortured in
captivity, we smile as he develops
a paternal relationship with Rod-
man and we cheer when he inevi-
tably succeeds.
In his niche,
Felton bullies
apes now, not
boy wizards.
But therein also lies the film's
greatest weakness. As the climax
approaches and an assembled
primate army faces off against
heavily-armed SWAT teams, we
realize that we've been cheering
on the extinction of the human
race, which the story treats as just
vengeance for researchers who
are callously trying to save lives.
The best propaganda is restrained
- we adapt the director's point
of view without consciously real-
izing it's the director's point of
view. And as chimps scream and
helicopters explode, it becomes
obvious that the film is anything
but subtle.

ManagingArts Editor
"TERRI" is a movie that
grounds you within a world,
which carries a simultaneously
sad and beauti-
ful reality all*
wrapped into
105 minutes. In TERRI
the caring arms
of ATO Pic- At the
tures, director Michigan
Azazel Jacobs ATO
Man") and the
team behind "Blue Valentine"
and "Half Nelson," the film, at
times painfully awkward but
reigning in deep hues of candor,
triumphs in its composition and
characters' execution.
The sound of trickling water
adapts into an image of an over-
weight teenager submerged in a
bathtub, face deadpan with apa-
thy. We soon find out that this is
title character, Terri Thompson
(Jacob Wysocki, TV's "Huge"),
who lives with and takes care of
his mentally ill but sarcastic and
insightful Uncle James (Creed
Bratton, TV's "The Office").
As the film gently progresses
from the opening scene to Terri
arriving at high school home-
room tardy, derogatorily whis-
tled at by his classmates, classical
soprano female vocals pervade
our auditory senses setting an
offbeat mood for "TERRI," a hit
at this year's Sundance Film Fes-
Female intrigue sparks up the
energy of the cinematic space
when we see Terri peering
through flour and baking soda in
Home Economics, eyes unblink-
ing as he watches Heather Miles
(Olivia Crocicchia, TV's "Rescue
Me") push her boyfriend's hands
away from underneath the table.
An instant dislike for the guy who
has previously verbally harassed
Terri, develops as he says, "It's
the perfect moment." Heather
says, "No." He whispers aggres-
sively, "Yes." A lesson on sexual
consent? Almost feels that way.
Fifteen minutes in, the movie
begins. John C. Reilly ("Magno-
lia") enters the picture as Prin-
cipal Fitzgerald, who calls Terri

in to discuss the boy's worri-
some "red flags": grade drops,
no class participation and paja-
mas as public attire. The film's
base is established when "Fitzer"
explains why he asked Terri to
meet - "Every year there are two
groups of kids that stand out here
... there's the good-hearted kids
and there's the bad-hearted kids."
The rest of the story is a sort
of indirect response to Terri's
response to his principle's state-
ment, "And which one am I?"
The audience undergoes a sym-
pathetic experience as Terri sets
mice traps, spells cheddar incor-
rectly on the grocery list, shaves
Uncle James' face and gets kicked
out of gym because he wouldn't
participate in high jump.
Like 'Charlie
Bartlett,' but
with more
The pace of the film picks up
speed about halfway through
when Terri sticks up for Heath-
er as she becomes somewhat of
a social outcast because of an
embarrassing act. Not only dres
he win Heather's friendship
and admiration when he diverts
negative attention from her in
school by doing a comedic Joe
Hollywood gimmick, but also
befriends a perverted but lovable
kid, Chad (newcomer Bridger
Zadina), who also meets with Mr.
Fitzgerald on a weekly basis.
Heather invites herself over
to Terri's to meet his uncle, and
when Chad impels the trajec-
tory of the evening, the plot hits a
startling but sincere tone of edgi-
The movie ends on a pleas-
ant note of Fitzgerald and Terri
shooting hoops, eating cheese-
burgers and talking about the
intimate folds of life. Supported
by eloquent filming, "TERRI"
subtly succeeds as a unique
portrayal of the ugly and the
beautiful, of every human being
wanting to fit in and feel wanted.

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