Right before It’s Kind of a Funny started, there was a trailer for Meet the Fockers. It struck me that many comedies emulate the same advertising strategy as Fockers and even It’s Kind of a Funny Story. There’s almost a predictable tempo that has evolved, with jokes delivered, pause, reply, cue laughter. Almost as if some of these moments were written for the trailer. The result is like seeing a haggard prostitute begging for clients long after the sex appeal has worn off. Thankfully this labored funniness doesn’t stifle Funny Story.
“Cool Craig,” as he’s known in the adult psychiatric ward, has problems that he doesn’t know how to manage. Stress from school, this application, a girl, blah blah blah. Craig of course realizes that it’s all going to be okay once he meets the people with real problems.
Craig is the archetypal boring white guy who leads us through the corridors of the North Ward, inviting us to survey carnival of psychological horrors: his agoraphobic Egyptian roommate, the local schizophrenic, and Bobby (Zach Galifianakis). Our archetype must also have his love interest, Noelle (Emma Roberts), the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who brings our boring protagonist to life.
Where the film hits some sincerity is Galifianikis’ Bobby. You will be disappointed if you go in expecting the same outlandish buffoon Galifianakis portrayed in last year’s The Hangover (but wait till November and I’m sure you’ll see that character again in Due Date). Instead, Galifianakis brings effective drama to this comedy with a sly, nuanced performance as the hospital-wise patient who just wants to see his daughter. When he’s nudging Craig toward Noelle, reacting in earnest to Craig’s questions, or losing his temper, there’s an authenticity that may bring a tear to your eyes or make you guffaw (depending on the scene).
It’s Kind of a Funny Story sports a strong, varied supporting cast that will have you announcing, “I know her/him,” with regularity and the racial diversity is commendable: Mixed racial relationships, a black woman as the lead doctor, and just as varied patients make the film feel like the real world, not the traditional white wash with a few token minorities to spice things up (coughcoughJamesCameron,StephenSpielberg,MichaelBaycough).
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is funny and charming, but mostly due to Zach Galifianakis who goes above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a genuine performance. The whole film would be much more interesting if it was about Bobby; he’s one of the few things that feel genuine.*
*see also the same issue in Kick Ass; Hit Girl and Big Daddy should have killed Kick Ass in the first reel