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It’s Kind of a Funny Story Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

It’s Kind of a Funny Story might be the most aptly titled film of 2010. It’s sweet, breezy, and kind of funny. It’s not remotely challenging, and I was a little bummed to see writing/directing duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck abandon the hard-hitting realism that made their previous features, Half Nelson and Sugar, so successful. But on the whole, I’d say their third film is a minor success—imperfect, but easy to enjoy.

Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is going through a rough time. The stresses of school, his future plans, his demanding father, and unrequited love are making him consider suicide, so he checks himself in to a mental hospital. Unaware that he’d be forced to stay there for a minimum of five days (he thought it’d be a quick in-and-out visit), Craig begins to get nervous. What would his parents say? What about his friends? And how is he going to deal with his fellow patients?

Turns out, it’s not all that bad. Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) takes Craig under his wing and shows him the ropes. He connects with Noelle (Emma Roberts), a young suicidal girl. And being in the hospital allows him to be honest with himself for once. He can really think about his problems and how insignificant they seem.

Other than the setting, the film is a pretty conventional affair. The characters are standard romantic comedy/coming-of-age story archetypes, but the fact that they are in a mental hospital freshens things up a bit (as strange as that might sound). The film doesn’t dig too deeply into the hardships of this place (to its discredit, I think). Instead, it chooses to remain light. It has a few dark moments, but nothing raw or shocking. These scenes are simply there to advance the plot.

Boden and Fleck’s directorial style here can best be described as quirky. As I stated earlier, any semblance of gritty realism is absent. Here, we are treated to (or subjected to, depending on your tastes) some animation, a musical sequence, and a number of scenes that play out like we are viewing a photo album, with a narrator describing the meaning behind a number of still shots. When you throw everything but the kitchen sink into your film, some of it is bound to work, and some of it will likely flop. That’s the case here. I enjoyed the quirkiness on occasion, but there’s just a bit too much of it.

Acting-wise, the film hits mostly all the right notes. Keir Gilchrist is someone I was completely unfamiliar with, but he’s pretty solid. The part doesn’t call upon him to show a lot of range, but I think what he brings to the role—a nerdy sense of naiveté—is appropriate. Emma Roberts is a good match for him, though I think she’s underused in the film. The standout performance, however, comes unexpectedly from Zach Galifianakis. He abandons some of the manic goofiness that made The Hangover so difficult for me to watch. It’s not completely absent, but its toned down and mixed with some quiet, serious moments.

There’s nothing truly memorable about It’s Kind of a Funny Story, but in the moment, I found it very pleasant and enjoyable. Perhaps it’s a step back for its excellent directors, but it’s an amusing, entertaining step back—90 minutes of harmless fun.

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