Movie review: ‘Kind of Funny’ is kind of funny
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” plays more like “One Flew Over Abercrombie & Fitch” as it focuses on the trials and tribulations of a 16-year-old named Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist), who has turned his anxieties into a contact sport. The New Yorker is worried about taking one of those pressure-packed tests that parents foist on their kids so their charges can get ahead. Craig’s best friend is also going out with the girl of his dreams, Nia (Zoe Kravitz). Bummer.
Based on a novel by Ned Vizzini, the film opens with Craig narrating a suicide dream sequence. Realizing he has issues, he goes to a mental health clinic to seek help. He wants immediate gratification, however, and believes a short stay in the clinic should do the trick. He finally manages to get himself committed, but, as luck would have it, the teen wing is undergoing renovation, so Craig ends up in the adult ward. Once there, he meets some truly troubled people and, freaked out, demands to be discharged. Not so fast. There’s a five-day minimum. Double bummer.
Stuck in the clinic, Craig makes friends with Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), an adult with multiple suicide attempts on his resume, and Noelle, a fellow teen with cuts on her face and wrists. The former serves as a mentor.
The latter serves as a love interest. Before you can say “what a cute couple,” Craig and Noelle start a relationship with predictable rom-com breakups and reconciliation. If cliches were anti-depressants, this film would put the audience in a coma.
The remainder of movie has Craig doing that coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water thing as he learns about life from the loonies.
That “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is so safe and sanitized is surprising considering it comes from the writing and directing team of Newton’s Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who made the infinitely superior “Half Nelson,” where the word “cute” is definitely not in the playbook.
In “Funny Story,” all the problems get solved nicely and neatly as if the film were a Disney fantasy instead of a slice-of-reality look at depression.
“Funny Story,” at least, has its moments, most of them provided by Galifianakis, the comedian who was the scene-stealer in “The Hangover.” Here, he displays his dramatic chops without completely losing his comic appeal. He’s the reason to see this film.
Roberts acquits herself well also, and the supporting cast makes contributions. Too bad Viola Davis is underused. As the woman in charge of the clinic, she acts more like Florence Nightingale than Nurse Ratched. If you’re looking for any tension, it’s in short supply here.
As for Gilchrist, let’s just say that if Hollywood ever makes the “Keanu Reeves Story,” he has the lead role.
As with so many teen films, the parents (Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan) pop in to show how supportive and clueless they are. Craig even has an adorable younger sister. Ahhh.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” comes as advertised. It’s kind of funny. It’s kind of entertaining. It’s kind of mediocre.
IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (PG-13 for mature issues, sexual content, drug material and language.) Cast includes Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts. 2.5 stars out of 4.