It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Emotions: A Teenager’s Favorite Accessory


Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis

By Robert Patrick

Plug Zach Galifianakis into a film, prop the letters of his name up at a marquee, and wait for teenagers, salivating at the maw like swarthy bulls, to charge into the theater as if the ticket attendant was a staunch torero. I can imagine them now, in a fit of giddy excitement, as they pull someone’s hand behind them, like one of those school crossing signs, as they rap the soles of their shoes down en route to the movie. I suppose “The Hangover” sort of made Galifianakis – who looks like Snarf from the “ThunderCats” cartoon – a household name, synonymous with the likes of the “Chuck Norris joke” and the omnipotent guffaws of “that’s what she said” zingers. I have nothing against Galifianakis, I only think that his beard should be billed before him, especially since he reaches into that furry coffer for laughs every chance he gets. No matter, he is why, and how, “It’s Sort of a Funny Story” will generate buzz throughout the trapperkeeper legions.

The movie itself is about a young man named Craig (Keir Gilchrist), who, because of a myriad of problems, admits himself into an adult psychiatric ward. Our protagonist looks cow-eyed at the troubled individuals, gawks at their problems, then, with the meek naivete of a wounded doe, wanders about trying not to get too involved with anyone. Ultimately, however, Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), another member of the ward, begins to befriend Craig in a peculiarly bullish way. Bobby’s hair is habitually unkempt, as if a garden blower had been fanning it for hours on end, and his beard looks like a mix of wood chips and wet mulch. The oddball becomes a sort of marred spiritual leader for Craig, despite his borderline asocial tendencies, and the unlikely duo learn about life, love and breakfast burritos.

The ward is lazily reminiscent of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, except Nurse Hatchet is a sedated hippie played by Jeremy Davies, and everything that happens in the movie is whimsical and without honest contemplation of very serious mental conditions. Yeah, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is abnormally boring, as if, in a moment of spontaneity, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck removed any motor neurons in this film’s mind. Keir Gilchrist spends most of the film looking like Justin Long. Zach Galifianakis spends most of the movie wearing undersized shirts and looking sad. And Emma Roberts, who, due to the lacerations on her arm, plays a cutter – even though it is never really addressed in this film. I love when emotional disorders are used like product logos instead of legitimately terrifying issues. In the movie’s attempt to be breezy and flippant, it ignores the patients in this psychiatric ward, essentially turns them into wallpaper, then walks by them as if they are simply a generic backdrop.

Boden and Fleck, two enormously talented directors, have made a film that looks surgically removed of any heart or brains. What about the directorial creativity? The introductory text, that scuttles across the bottom of the frame, to introduce characters comes off as a poor man’s Wes Anderson trick. In fact, much of everything seems cloyingly reminiscent of the aforementioned director, save for the lack of powder blue pastels and tinny Mark Mothersbaugh score.

And I really don’t want to bring the movie’s posters into this, but have you seen them? What a sterile, listless promotional design. Aside from hearing Method Man and Redman’s “Da Rockwilder” on stereo surround, during a nondescript scene of emotional artifice, I really have no use for this film. Tragically, this film will be seen ten times more than Boden and Fleck’s other features – Half-Nelson and Sugar – though it is infinitely worse. If you want to see Galafianakis writhe around and prod at his furry head, you would do best to re-watch “The Hangover”. If you want to see a film set in a psychiatric ward, watch “Girl, Interrupted”. If you want to see Emma Roberts, just don’t. There are scores of other films you could see instead of this vacuous one. I give it two-and-a-half stars simply on the merit of having Jeremy Davies in it. You have been warned.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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