It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a movie that lives up to its name. It’s kind of funny and it’s most certainly a story. The problem, however, is that the story isn’t very interesting and when the film isn’t funny, it’s downright boring. It’s about a young kid realizing his self worth in a psychiatric ward that he probably shouldn’t be in. It’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets pretty much every coming-of-age comedy ever made.
The young kid this time is named Craig (Keir Gilchrist—a Justin Long lookalike if there ever was one). He’s an unhappy 16 year old who simply can’t seem to handle anything life throws at him, so he makes a trip to the doctor and explains that he is suicidal and afraid he might try to kill himself. At his request, he is committed to the adult psychiatric ward of the hospital (the teen ward is having work done) where he meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a seemingly normal guy that takes Craig under his wing and helps him to learn to appreciate himself and those around him.
Here’s a movie that fools itself into thinking it’s something more than it really is. It wants to make people laugh, but only succeeds part of the time. It wants to be dramatic, but its multiple subplots are poorly fleshed out. It wants us to care about Craig, but we don't because his problems are no worse than the standard teenager. Early in the movie, he even says that there’s no serious reason for his depression. His family loves him, he hasn’t been abused in any way and he has lots of friends who care about him. His depression stems from things like stress induced vomiting and being single. If that’s the worst his life has to offer, he should consider himself lucky.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story also thinks it is smart. It’s not. Surprising, seeing as how it’s setting is in a mental hospital. Think to movies like the aforementioned Cuckoo’s Nest or even the recent Shutter Island, both of which made some sort of commentary on the human condition, exploring the disparity between sane and insane and scrutinizing society’s definition of each. At the end of Shutter Island, for instance, DiCaprio’s character realizes that he has made a world for himself in his head to avoid the sadness and guilt he felt for the deaths of his wife and children. To him, living with such a tragic memory would be crazy, so he willingly (according to my interpretation) goes through with the planned lobotomy, preferring to “die a good man” over “living as a monster.” It’s Kind of a Funny Story is empty. It carries no similar intellectual weight and offers nothing more than the bland and easy lesson that teaches you to enjoy your time on Earth because “those who aren’t busy being born are busy dying.”
I suppose you could argue that the two main characters aren’t crazy, despite living around those who are, but the movie similarly fails to explore the emotional turmoil and pain that would drive someone to consider suicide. It only alludes to it in the case of Bobby and completely forgets about it with Craig.
While it does have a few other nagging problems, like a random and unnecessary musical number to “Under Pressure,” I hesitate to keep pouring on the criticisms. I didn’t hate It’s Kind of a Funny Story. It has some great moments and Galifianakis capably transitions into a more dramatic role than he is used to (though he still has a ways to go before fitting comfortably). It was an admirable attempt, but ultimately, it left me feeling lukewarm. It’s a close call, but I wouldn’t feel right telling you to dish out your hard earned money for a story that’s only kind of funny.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story receives 2.5/5