It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a terrible title. The attempt to be cute falls flat on its face, due to the fact that this film is hardly funny. All things considered, it’s not even funny in the “strange” definition of the word. How about: “It’s Mostly a Boring Story,” or “It’s A Completely Unbelievable Story.” After seeing this film, those are two titles I could get behind.
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is a teenager completely on the edge. Seeking psychological refuge from his suicidal thoughts, Craig checks himself into a hospital where he is sent into the adult psych ward. Among the kooky characters Craig encounters in the ward are Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a fun-loving, free spirit, and Noelle (Emma Roberts), an attractive but socially withdrawn patient. Looking for answers for the complicated questions in his life, Craig actually winds up helping those around him, as if the psych ward is where he truly fits in.
From now until the end of time, any movie set in a mental hospital and/or psych ward will be compared to the classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s one of the most beloved films of all time, because it’s funny, smart, and edgy. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is none of those things.
This might sound a bit harsh, but Gilchrist doesn’t have what it takes to carry a film. At least, not yet. The role of Craig requires a bit of charisma and an ounce of charm, neither of which are demonstrated by Gilchrist here. The kid doesn’t seem to be a particularly talented actor, nor is he much of a looker. Gilchrist is young, so there’s a chance he will come into his own, but I don’t see him getting very many leading roles after this performance.
The only star power the film has is from Zach Galifianakis. I’ve been a big fan of Galifianakis since I saw a late-night Comedy Central re-run of one of his stand-up specials. The character of Bobby has truths and insight into who Galifianakis seems to be, far more so than the character he played in The Hangover and his character in the upcoming Due Date. The problem is, every authentic moment that Galifianakis provides is matched with over-the-top cheesy (almost uncomfortably so) bonding between his character and Craig. This, of course, is the fault of the script, and not of any particular actor, but it’s painful to see Galifianakis come so close to brilliance, to only be pushed away due to bad writing.
The writing is the biggest fault of the film in general. Cuckoo’s Nest gave audience quirky patients, but also scary moments, where the characters feel and act unhinged. The characters in It’s Kind of a Funny Story aren’t in need of any medical attention, but rather just a hug. Nobody there is actually crazy; perhaps they’re just a bit eccentric. Perhaps. They’re mostly just boring.
Instead of the fresh, indie-comedy that was promised via the film’s trailer, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is stale, uninteresting, and ultimately a waste of Galifianakis’ talent. With this film, Galifianakis might have sealed his fate as the typecast bozo, doomed to reprise his role in The Hangover time and time again. For such a talented and funny man, that might be enough to actually send him to the psych ward.
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