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It’s Kind of a (Not So) Funny Story

Ankur Chawla | Tuesday, October 12, 2010

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is an adaptation of the book by Ned Vizzini, following the story of a depressed teenager, Craig, who gets admitted to the psychiatric ward of a hospital after having suicidal thoughts. However, it fails to live up to its title by treading the line between dark comedy and teen drama.

Craig, played by the young actor Keir Gilchrist, is a typical Domer in the making at the Executive Pre-Professional High School in Brooklyn. A combination of loving but pushy parents, excessive expectations and severe shyness leads to his depression and culminates with him seeking medical help. Not to belittle his condition, depression and suicidal thoughts are very significant problems. But this is an unoriginal baseline for a movie and the only thing that could make it more cliché would be if Michael Cera played Craig’s character.

While in the hospital Craig meets a plethora of patients, each with their distinct conditions trying to get a cheap laugh from the audience. A schizophrenic makes candid remarks such as “My bed is on fire,” Craig’s Egyptian roommate Muktada hides in his bed under his covers all day and a Hasidic Jewish man politely asks other patients to quiet down every single time they use the phone.

The one exception to this is Bobby (Zach Galifianakis, “The Hangover”) who quickly becomes Craig’s friend and mentor during his stay in the psych ward. He is without a doubt the deepest character and the unsung hero of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” as he battles with self-esteem issues and being an absentee father to an 8-year-old girl. Galifianakis’s performance is praiseworthy and he shows that he can be much more than a one-man wolf pack and can play a serious role (despite his traditional beard and scruffy hair). Also, a fellow teenager, Noelle (Emma Roberts, “Valentines Day,” “Nancy Drew”) plays a serious role and serves as Craig’s confidant. Still, she remains a static character with little depth.

Despite the overdone story of a teenager with the typical three problems (parents, school, girls), “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” did have its high points. At one point the entire ward did a rendition of “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, which was both entertaining and well done. In addition the main character was relatable and fairly well acted. He showed that the pressures surrounding anyone can be undoubtedly daunting.

Still, if you’re expecting more than a few cheap laughs from a movie named “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” the film fails to deliver and instead presents an unoriginal, overdone tale of teen drama.