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It's Kind of a Funny Story

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2010:01:28 12:44:46

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Opens Oct. 8

Zach Galifianakis may break your heart in this coming-of-age story, proving that there’s no one as tragic as a comic. Writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story is an adult movie about a kid, and their treatment puts an emphasis on the “kind of” in the title and throws in a fantasy musical number that kills.

Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is a reluctant over-achieving student at a New York high school for only the smartest of kids. He’s in love with his best friend’s girl Nia (Zoë Kravitz). His workaholic father (Jim Gaffigan) pushes him to finish applying for an elite summer school program while his mother (Lauren Graham) is a gentle soul who appears unable to understand or relieve her son’s stress—which is mostly internalized, although it physically manifests in projectile vomiting. Casual monthly therapy sessions are doing nothing for Craig.

When it all gets to be too much for him, Craig rides his bike to the emergency room a few blocks from his house, and ends up in the adult mental ward because the juvenile one is undergoing renovations. He instantly senses his mistake—he’s got school in the morning—but Dr. Minerva (Viola Davis) makes him give it five days to determine if he’s stable enough to leave.

Crazytowns tend to be populated with what your great-aunt might call “characters,” and this one keeps any kind of violence at a minimum, so Craig’s universe for the next few days swirls with lovable loons including a cute cutter his age named Noelle (Emma Roberts) and the odd voice of reason Bob (Galifianakis). His roommate is an Indian man who won’t get out of bed. An old African-American guy walks around hollering, “It’ll come to you.” Bob’s two buddies Humble (Matthew Maher) and Johnny (Adrian Martinez) seem slow and angry, respectively. And there are plenty of comatose, robe- and coat-wearing zombies filling the background.

Craig’s initial loneliness is the hardest part of his first full day locked up, but what he does on the inside is too big a part of the movie’s fun to spoil here. Gilchrist plays Craig perfectly: ill at ease yet smart and talented, caring yet awkward, just a really good kid who never feels sorry for himself but wishes someone would ask the right questions and guide to him to his answers. Galifianakis’ Bob does just that and always with his driest of humor, sideways glances, and purposeful body shuffle—he plays basketball so earnestly you know the ball isn’t going through the hoop.

By following up The Hangover’s wackadoodle brother-in-law with a New York mental patient, Galifianakis succeeds where many comedic actors fail: transforming from the funny guy to the serious actor through an organic humor true to the character he plays. His Bob is a clever and crazy guy whom everyone wants to befriend, especially a teenager who might be thinking about suicide.

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