Review: IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY
Watch the trailer for IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY and you may expect an amusing teenage update of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST about a 16-year-old who checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. But the latest collaboration from the directing and writing team responsible for HALF NELSON and SUGAR is not a comedy (At least not a funny one. All the jokes are in the trailer) and the ‘teenage update’ angle consists of tiresomely self-conscious devices such as having a schlubby teenage protagonist talk directly to the camera about his various angsts. IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is a poorly written, and cloyingly sentimental movie that tries to portray mental illness as a precious personality quirk but I was bored out of my skull while watching and kept hoping Nurse Ratched would charge in and kick everyone’s whiny butt.
IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is the story of 16-year-old Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into the psychiatric floor at a local hospital after dreaming about a suicide attempt. As innocent as his intentions may be, he underestimates the consequences of this decision and expecting a quick fix or perhaps a new drug prescription (he voluntarily stopped taking his Zoloft three weeks earlier), he ends up with a mandatory five day stay. So Craig spends the better part of a week in the nuthouse making friends with, among others, Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who pretends to be a doctor to sneak outside, and Noelle (Emma Roberts), the only other teenager on the floor who happens to be gorgeous save for that mysterious scar on her cheek.
There are of course the requisite assemblage of supporting loonies in IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY but none of them stand out and the film only seems to exist to prove that Zach Galifianakis has more range than his usual comic stooge. The problem is that by playing it straight he exposes the fact that his comic persona is all he’s got, but he should be thankful that he’s playing off Keir Gilchrist, a young actor so bland and charisma-challenged he immediately fades into the background making Galifianakis more interesting only by default. The directors decided that the best way to illustrate Craig’s psychological state is through a series of animated dream sequences, tiresome fantasies, and stale flashbacks mostly concerning a girlfriend but these seem like filler and never advance the plot. The treatment of the material never feels fresh and the film’s excruciating low point (actually the low point for any film I’ve seen this year) is when Craig imagines himself lead singer in a musical-production number, an overproduced, complete version of the Queen/David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure.” The entire song is performed and it’s the type of self-indulgent sequence that may have been fun to film but also the first that any filmmaker with an ounce of self-awareness would have cut out. IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is kind of a crappy movie.
1 of 5 Stars