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Entries in Zach Galifianakis (7)

Friday
Oct082010

It's Kind of a Funny Story

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

Friday
Jan082010

Youth in Revolt

I should have known better. Everybody knows that January is dump month, the month of the year where movie studios release the films they have no faith in. After the holidays, where they release the films they think could be big money grabbers or Oscar contenders, theatrical attendance generally goes down a bit. So instead of releasing something of quality, they take whatever they have lying around and plop it here just so they will have something on screens nationwide while they await their next big blockbuster. Despite this, Youth in Revolt looked promising. The trailers were amusing and seemed like only a glimpse at an overall better, raunchier, funnier movie, but naturally, that isn't the case. Youth in Revolt is quite bad and Michael Cera's relatively impressive filmography is now on a running streak of two bad movies in a row with the inclusion of the wretched Year One released earlier this year. Perhaps his usual brand of awkward humor is beginning to wear thin.

The film follows Nick Twisp (Cera), the typical nerdy, virgin teen that usually crops up in these types of pictures. He lives with his mother (Jean Smart) and her boy toy whom he hates named Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). After three Navy men come around to lay the beat down on Jerry, they pack up and take a road trip to a camper site where Nick meets the love of his life, Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). His overwhelming emotions get the best of him and in his desire to win her over, he creates a supplementary persona whom he dubs Francois (also played by Michael Cera), the suave, uncaring, foul mouthed side of him who says what's on his mind and does what he wants. Unfortunately, Nick has to leave the camper site and Sheeni behind, so he comes up with a master plan. He will do terrible things and make his mother's life miserable. This way, she will kick him out and he will have to live with his father (Steve Buscemi) who lives near Sheeni. After blowing up a store with the help of his alternate personality, he gets his wish, but the cops are now looking for him as well.

Youth in Revolt is one mess of an unfunny movie, in large part due to the creepy nature of Francois and the questionable mental state of Nick. The crutch of the film is his split personality, but Francois comes off more as a child predator than he does the cool bad ass side of Nick. Essentially, Nick is talking to himself in the scenes with Francois and forces himself to do things he doesn't want to do. He's mentally unstable, sick of his repressed, secluded self and growing weary of his mother's sluttiness that his kind, gentle demeanor is overtaken by the power of Francois. His brain is so diluted with the foolish thought that he simply can't go on being a virgin (because no 16 year old anywhere is still a virgin) that he basically snaps. This is a guy we're supposed to root for, but I found myself more inclined to root for the police so he could get the proper psychiatric treatments he so desperately needed.

Though it does offer up a few laughs here and there, roughly half are in the trailer (equaling out to about seven or eight total) and they're better edited in it than the actual picture. Similar to the overrated Fantastic Mr. Fox, Youth in Revolt takes a funny joke that was edited with terrific comedic timing in the trailer and adds in an extra shot or two that throws the whole punchline off track. It just goes to show how important editing is. You can have the funniest joke ever on paper, but if it doesn't come across pitch perfect in the movie, it loses its impact.

Michael Cera, though undeniably likable and charming, has more or less played the same character in every movie, including this one. His awkward, nerdy physique and sarcastic humor are intact in Youth in Revolt, but it's old at this point. While Francois is a departure from his usual performance, he is underutilized, only showing up in a handful of scenes, only one of which is funny in the slightest.

I'm not quick to point the finger at anybody in particular when it comes to the failings of Youth in Revolt. The actors do a capable job, the direction is fine and the writing was decent enough, but "capable," "fine," and "decent" aren't exactly impassioned adjectives. The whole affair just seems lazy, with nobody doing anything too awful, but nobody on the opposite end picking up the slack either. The new year is off to a poor start indeed.

Youth in Revolt receives 1.5/5

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