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It’s Kind of a Funny Story

[Rating: 1.5/5]

If you’re willing to buy the idea that an overanxious teenager can spend five days in a mental ward and emerge having learned some valuable lessons, made lifelong friends and met the girl of his dreams, then “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a movie you will enjoy.   Me, I was a bit skeptical to begin with, and just grew more incredulous at the film wore on.   Remember that scene in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” when McMurphy takes them all fishing, and it goes to hell because some of them really are sick after all — or the moment in “Girl, Interrupted” when you realize that Angelina Jolie isn’t just a sexy rebel, she’s a dangerous sociopath?  This film doesn’t have anything remotely like that.  According to “Funny Story,”  a mental ward is just a place where adorable misfits hang out and play ping pong while they attempt to learn life lessons and/or acquire funny stories to tell their friends,  “well, once I spent five days in a mental ward…”  Amongst the right crowd, it’s a pickup line.

I think Zack Galafinakas is supposed to bring the darkness; he plays a fellow patient who has attempted suicide six times.   Our hero (Keir Gilchrist, doing his best Jesse Eisenberg/Jay Baruchel impression) has kind of maybe thought about committing suicide.  But Galafinakas seems miscast here and is surprisingly not very funny.  He’s much better at playing an apparently normal guy who just might be crazy (the role he played in “The Hangover” and “Road Trip”) than at playing a certifiably crazy guy who just might be…um, wise, or sad, or something.  I’m not sure.  Not funny, that I can say with confidence.  He’s not really allowed to be, and that’s perhaps the most disappointing thing about this movie.  It all feels so muted and un-wacky.  For instance:  Galafinakas dresses up like a doctor, sneaks Gilchrist out of the mental ward, and the two engage on a crazy wild adventure…that consists entirely of playing basketball (in the hospital gym?) and eating in the cafeteria.   Where’s the antics?  They escaped from a mental ward, for heaven’s sake!   To put it succinctly, what  “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” needs, more than anything, is a healthy dose of Mike Tyson.

Instead, the film finds itself trying too hard to make a point about overstressed, overworked teens in today’s world, and how they lose sight of the big picture.  But really, that’s not all that profound of a point to be making, and really, if five days in a mental ward is all that today’s youth need to get their heads screwed on straight, then mental wards would be everywhere, and way more expensive.  It’s a preposterous idea, and “Funny Story” is an unfunny film that spends an awful lot of time exploring it.

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