"It's Kind of a Funny Story" really isn't so funny. Cute, bordering on cutesy, yes. Light and shallow and inconsequential in a lot of ways. But funny? Rarely.
Based on a Ned Vizzini novel about a 16-year-old who checks himself into an adult mental ward and discovers something about himself and the troubled souls around him, it stumbles pleasantly and predictably down that fine line between "sweetly sensitive" and "trite."
Keir Gilchrist stars as Craig, an upper-class kid in a magnet school who is sweating grades, an application to a prestigious summer school for future Wall Street barons, his best friend's girlfriend and a family that doesn't seem to get him. He's worried his dreams of jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge will become more than dreams, so he nags a doctor into admitting him to Three North, a psyche ward in a New York hospital.
That's where he meets the eccentric and wounded Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), his tour guide to the world of schizophrenia, dementia, depression and self-injury.
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The ward is peppered with "types" - which is unfortunate, since even the leading characters aren't drawn with any real depth.
Gilchrist comes off as a younger, duller Justin Long. The haircut doesn't help, dude.
Nor do the film's jarring and off-key fantasy sequences, such as imagining everybody in music therapy pitching in on an overly appropriate Bowie/Queen song.
And co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck rely on a confused voiceover narration in which our hero occasionally blurts out the obvious.
Their breakout film "Half Nelson" looks like more of a fluke with every new outing.
Here's what "It's Kind of a Funny Story" gets right. It doesn't trivialize teen angst, but it does contextualize it. Showing a kid who is overwhelmed and demonstrating to him that his problems, while real, don't compare to people with more serious illnesses and struggles, suggests that empathy is part of his cure. There cannot be a more positive message in a movie about mental illness, even one as trivial as this one often is.