Fully living up to its halfhearted shrug of a title, It’s Kind of a Funny Story chronicles the mildly engaging exploits of Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a high-school brainiac who voluntarily commits himself to a psych ward following a bout of suicidal depression. Aghast to learn that he’s now stuck there for at least five days, Craig has no choice but to learn Valuable Life Lessons from his fellow nutters, including a conveniently hot self-mutilator (Emma Roberts) and a gregarious, manipulative mentor (The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis). Everybody’s problems are fairly benign, and crises are few, allowing plenty of down time in which the ensemble cast can, for example, perform a embarrassing fantasy lip dub to “Under Pressure.”
Adapted from the novel by Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is the third feature from the team of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who previously made the far more restrained indies Half Nelson and Sugar. Their forte is quiet observation, and it’s almost painful to see them attempt crowd-pleasing snappiness—they’re consistently a half-beat off rhythmically, which feels a lot like watching a movie in which the sound is a fraction of a second out of sync with the image. Even when they do calm down, the film, despite its capable cast (which also includes Viola Davis and Jeremy Davies as hospital staffers), has little more to offer than stale platitudes and canned one-liners; even a quick skim of Vizzini’s book suggests that it’s been gutted. Fleck and Boden are too gifted to be this lazy. Let’s hope it’s an anomaly.