Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story on Blogcritics.

The Film
It’s Kind of a Funny Story wants to be a funny story. It also would like to be a sad story and an uplifting story at turns, but whatever emotion the film is aiming for at any given moment, it generally falls short. Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, the film is adapted and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, the team behind the gritty and engaging Half Nelson. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is far less successful, never finding its footing despite a likable cast.

Keir Gilchrist stars as Craig Gilner, a depressive high school student who checks himself into a psych ward after suicidal thoughts nearly overwhelm him. Due to hospital renovations, the adult and teen wards have been combined, and Craig finds himself developing a fast friendship with fellow patient Bobby (Zach Galifianakis). He’s unsure if he even needs psychiatric care, but throughout the process, learns that the goals his parents (an almost nonexistent Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan) have for him might not line up with his own ambitions.

He also falls for the suicidal Noelle (Emma Roberts), which he has to balance with his longtime crush on high school friend Nia (Zoë Kravitz). A half-hearted attempt at introducing a love triangle midway through the film only dilutes the film’s wishy-washy tonal inconsistencies further.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story works and is even kind of moving during certain moments between Craig and Bobby, who Galifianakis plays with a deep-eyed sadness. When the film allows him to play the character straight — as an emotionally wounded man who has lost contact with his daughter — it achieves some dramatic weight. Unfortunately though, the script keeps bringing Bobby’s character back to the role of whimsical guardian for Craig. It’s an obvious move to keep Galifianakis’s comic sensibilities in play, but it transforms the character from an actual human being to an all-knowing plot device who can help Craig out when he needs it, then conveniently disappear out the door.

The film insists on never staying too dramatic throughout, which is fine for a light coming-of-age film like this, but the comedy is mostly tone deaf. Fanciful interludes attempt to take us inside Craig’s brain, showing us his fantasies, but every one of these moments — even a glammed-out concert where Craig sings Freddie Mercury’s part and Bobby sings David Bowie’s on “Under Pressure” — is curiously inert.

Gilchrist and Roberts are two fresh, appealing faces, and their inevitable romance is sweet even in its predictability, but It’s Kind of a Funny Story is only intermittently enjoyable.

The Blu-ray Disc
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is a very clean presentation, with white hospital walls serving as blank backdrops for colors, especially blues and greens, to pop on top of. DNR seems to have been applied throughout though, noticeable in the lack of fine detail and film grain.

Audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that serves the dialogue-heavy film well, with clean voices coming from the fronts. The solid music contributed by Broken Social Scene rounds out the presentation a bit more.

Special Features
Extras are slight here, with about 12 minutes of outtakes (projectile vomit onto Gaffigan and Galifianakis clowning are highlights) serving as the best bonus feature. Ten minutes of deleted scenes are mostly superfluous, but not as much as two brief featurettes — a brief EPK-style making-of and a couple minutes of footage from the film’s New York premiere.

The Bottom Line
Even by modest standards, It’s Kind of a Funny Story has little to get excited about.

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