IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY 2.5/4
Focus Features, Rated PG-13
Teen movies tend to face the same pitfalls as the generation gap. Whether conceived by adults or sprung from the creative minds of adolescents themselves, the end product is likely to appeal to one of those groups and underwhelm the other.
It’s Kind Of A Funny Story is a partly autobiographical misadventure of a lonely and depressed teen encountering a rude awakening of everything the mental health system is not when he checks himself into a psycho ward. It is a not-so-funny story that, like its protagonist, seems to fall into the cracks somewhere in between. That is, like the adolescent world that can be so frustrating and inaccessible to the fretting adults around it, the movie gropes for an emotional connection to teen alienation that it sometimes grasps and just as often doesn’t.
Keir Gilchrist (United States of Tara) is Craig, a Brooklyn high schooler staked out on a bridge late one Sunday night, contemplating suicide. Concluding it may be a better idea to check himself into a mental ward—even without his parents’ knowledge—Craig does just that. But his unrealistic quick fix notion finds him in a situation where checking out so he might get to school on time by Monday morning is out of the question.
His unpleasantly unpredictable circumstances turn even worse when Craig is assigned to the adult ward because the adolescent wing is currently under renovation. It’s here he encounters Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a buffoonish intermittent lifer and occasional shrink impersonator who may have more info about navigating the outside world to impart to Craig than any doctor.
Based on the 2006 part-confessional novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson, Sugar), It’s Kind Of A Funny Story strives to be a sensitively crafted tale as conveyed through the prism of adolescent angst, and often gets its right. The layering of that despair with imagination-laden graphics and the bittersweet vibe of inmates taking over the asylum is not so bad, either. Where the film falls short is failing to sustain that wild momentum and instead settling for trivial teen clichés about sex and school rivalries. Like the array of prescribed meds routinely dispensed to the patients, it promises lots more than it is equipped to deliver.