Teen movies tend to face the same pitfalls as the generation gap in general. Whether conceived by adults, or sprung from the creative minds of adolescents themselves, the end product is likely to appeal to one of those groups, and underwhelm the other.
And It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, a partly autobiographical misadventure of a lonely and depressed teen encountering a rude awakening of everything the mental health system is not when checking himself into a psycho ward for a little TLC, is like its protagonist a not so funny story that seems to fall into the cracks somewhere in between. That is, like the adolescent world that can be so frustrating and inaccessible to the fretting adults around them, the movie gropes for an emotional connection to teen alienation that it sometimes grasps, and just as often doesn’t. Which means falling into that other gap of an idea of the emotional canvas of youth that exists mostly inside the heads of grownups.
Keir Gilchrist (United States Of Tara) is Craig, a Brooklyn highschooler staked out on a bridge late one Sunday night, contemplating suicide. Concluding that it may be a better idea to check himself into a mental ward, even without his parents’ knowledge, Craig does just that. But his unrealistic quick fix notion of psychiatry finds the troubled turned panicked kid in a roach motel kind of situation, where checking out is in no way on the menu so that he might get to school on time by Monday morning.
And his unpleasantly unpredictable circumstances turn even worse when Craig is assigned to the adult ward because the adolescent wing is currently under renovation. Where he encounters buffoonish intermittent lifer Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a goofy grownup and occasional shrink impersonator when he can get away with it, who may have more to impart to Craig about navigating the perplexing outside world, than any doctor with multiple degrees on duty.
Based on the 2006 in part confessional novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson, Sugar), It’s Kind Of A Funny Story strives for a sensitively crafted story as conveyed through the prism of adolescent angst, and often gets its right. Then layering that despair with imagination-laden graphics and the bittersweet vibe of a raucous inmates taking over the asylum periodic detour – when not engaging in lunatic breakfast burrito wars – that is not so bad either.
Where the film falls short, is sustaining that wild momentum, and instead just settling for trivial teen cliches about sex and school rivalries. And like the array of prescribed meds routinely dispensed to the cranky patients, promises lots more than it is equipped to deliver.
2 1/2 [out of 4] stars