Movie Review - It's Kind of a Funny Story (**)


It's Kind of a Funny Story.  101 mins.  PG-13.  Written and Directed by Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden.  Starring Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, and Zach Galifianakis.
The key words in the title of It's Kind of a Funny Story are "kind of."  It's kind of a decent movie, but not quite.  Kind of funny, but not really.  The most noteworthy aspect of it is that The Hangover's Zach Galifianakis co-stars, and he's quite good here, but the movie is just a rehashed version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, as written by John Hughes.  You've seen it all before, and done better.
Keir Gilchrist stars as Craig, a clinically depressed 16 year-old who checks himself into a adult psychiatric ward, after a failed suicide attempt.  There's really not all that much wrong in Craig's life - he's stressed about school, he's in love with his best friend's girl, his dad is a tad too focused on work; but all of this pales in comparison to kids with real problems out there.  The movie might have benefited from having a lead character who doesn't seem so young and so...slight.  Miraculously, all works out great for Craig at the end of his 5-day stint in the psyche ward.  He finds a new love (Emma Roberts), discovers what he wants to do career-wise (help other mental patients), and decides to live.  
Choose life - that's a good message to be sure, and the movie does have a few nice moments, most involving Galifianakis.  But writer-directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden seem ill-suited to this kind of material (or, at least, this approach to the material).  Their prior films, Half Nelson and Sugar, were much more gritty and realistic.  I don't mean to imply that they can't make a lighter, comedic film - but it's odd to see them make one that feels so fake.  The duo also try their hand at several visually ambitious, quirky, narrated segments that, unfortunately, play like a film student's attempt to ape Wes Anderson's style.
I expect more out of Fleck and Boden at this point in their careers.  It's Kind of a Funny Story is a step back for them, resembling nothing more than an indie feel-good comedy that plays decently at film festivals and then never catches on outside of them.

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