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October 09, 2010
Review - " It's Kind of a Funny Story "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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It's Kind of a Funny Story
Directed by: Ryan Fleck
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Zoe
Kravitz, Viola Davis

This irreverent dramedy based on writer Neil Vizzini's young adult
novel - which co-stars offbeat comedian Zach Galifianakis and tween
star Emma Roberts - will likely appeal to teens thanks to its relatable
take on how overwhelming life and expectations can be when you're
in high school. Its mix of teen angst (the main character begins the
movie feeling suicidal) and mental hospital drama and hijinks
includes some salty language, discussions about serious issues like
suicide, and unsettling situations.

Sixteen-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) has been thinking about
suicide - how to do it, where to do it. Life has become too
overwhelming for him: The kids at his specialized high school are
hypercompetitive and overachieving, his father is pressuring him to
apply for a summer program that will look good on his college
applications, and he can't stop thinking about his best friend's
girlfriend (Zoe Kravitz). Worried that he'll actually follow his plan to
jump off the Brooklyn Bridge through, Craig checks into a mental
hospital. Since the teen ward is under repair, he's left to mingle with
the grown-ups until the doctors figure out the best course of action.
There, Craig meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), the leader of the
pack, who helps Craig settle in while he prepares for his own
impending release, and Noelle (Emma Roberts), another teen with
whom Craig immediately feels a kinship.
There's not so much to relish in this coming-of-age dramedy. It has it's moments. There's the story, which is rich and witty
and confidently told. There's Gilchrist, who's both vulnerable enough and bold enough for the role. And then there's
Galifianakis, who proves that he's got a much wider range than his previous outings, mostly comedies, have revealed. He
can be broken and funny at the same time.

But the film is maddening, too. It bends to an
inclination long seen in movies to paint mental
hospitals (and their patients) as a wonderland
of sorts, with eccentric patients able to crack wise
given the opportunity and equally eccentric
teachers and volunteers guiding their way. Aren't
there people with heavy-duty problems who don't
speak like stand-up comics and cheerleaders?
Still, that's a forgivable offense, given how much
empathy exists in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”.
It delivers fascinating detours into the mind of a
teenager living in a world defined by
accomplishments, when, really, it's
accomplishment enough to be able to live a little,
laugh a little, and embrace the flawed nature of

Actor Zach Galifianakis steals the show from his
first on-screen moment. “It’s Kind of a Funny
Story” is imperfect in its sometimes cliched and tidy rendering of a 16-year-old boy committed to an adult psych ward, but
the lead performances are worth the price of admission.

This is no “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” that’s for sure. The story skips along at a pace that is far too upbeat for a kid
suffering thoughts of suicide. Craig quickly falls in love, discovers his true calling (visual art), and even heals a fellow
patient, a seriously depressed man who can’t get out of bed until Craig plays him some catchy music. There’s a whole lot of
condescension toward the mentally ill here and way too many super-simple magic solutions to illnesses that are unbearable
at best, life-threatening at worst. Still, there are a small smattering of uplifting and semi-inspiring moments, all of which
happen when Galifianakis is on screen. But the bottom line is that the extraordinary actor seems too good for the often trite
Viola Davis is charming and endlessly
watchable as Craig’s shrink, but her
character is, like many of the characters
here, a skimpily drawn skeleton of a real

Don’t expect earth-shattering insights into the
nature of mental illness, or even humor that
leads to understanding. Most of the jokes are
goofy, mean-spirited jabs at clownish
characters we don’t care about. The comedy
does not derive from tragic truth, but from
contrived antics that have all the hollowness
of lazily crafted set-up/punchline gaffs. It's
good, just not as good as I expected.  Overall
It's Kind of a Funny Story is a disappointment.