Not much to get psyched about
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, October 8, 2010
There's very little that's even kind of funny in "It's Kind of a Funny Story," which can't accurately be described as a comedy but isn't a true drama, either.
Keir Gilchrist stars as a Brooklyn high school student named Craig, who, pronouncing himself overwhelmed by "grades, girls, two wars, impending environmental catastrophe and an imploding economy," commits himself to psychiatric care at a hospital. The youth ward is full, so Craig spends five days in the adult ward, where he learns lessons about life and growing up from its motley clientele.
If you're thinking "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest of a Boy, Interrupted," you're keying into one of the major problems with "It's Kind of a Funny Story," which is that so many elements, from its setup to scenes of therapy sessions and hallway high jinks, seem as canned as the blandest dayroom Muzak.
Gilchrist delivers an unobjectionable but undistinguished performance as a teenager whose journey ultimately feels frivolously low-stakes. And Emma Roberts has been woefully miscast as a patient named Noelle, who as a character reminiscent of Angelina Jolie's volatile troubled child in "Girl, Interrupted," needs more ballast than Roberts's decidedly non-edgy persona. (The cuddly whack-jobs who populate the rest of the ward are played in throwaway performances by such otherwise terrific actors as Jeremy Davies, Daniel London and the redoubtable Viola Davis, here completely wasted as Craig's therapist.)
The most memorable performance in "It's Kind of a Funny Story" belongs to Zach Galifianakis, most recently seen in "Dinner for Schmucks" and "The Hangover." Galifianakis has the kind of portly deadpan presentation that made him amusing doing next to nothing in those movies. He's amusing here, too, but he also manages to bring emotional gravitas to a character who, unlike Craig, stands to lose everything when his hitch at the hospital is up.
Adapted from the Ned Vizzini novel by co-directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, "It's Kind of a Funny Story" counts as a surprising misfire from the team that brought audiences such assured, intimate films as "Half Nelson" and "Sugar." Whereas those early efforts exuded ease and naturalism, the freeze frames and lip-syncing musical number in "It's Kind of a Funny Story" feel forced and inauthentic. Let's hope the team's flirtation with too-hip-for-its-own-good filmmaking is as brief as Craig's own mental health break.
Contains mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and profanity.