It's (kind of) amazing how 'It's Kind of a Funny Story's title perfectly describes the movie. 'It's Kind of a Funny Story' is kind of a lot of things, but it never settles into a groove. It bounces all over the place, from a trite romance between two leads, to teaching us that everyone is important even if they're in a mental institution. It wants to be a comedy that appeals to the masses, all the while keeping a certain indie charm that becomes grating after the first half hour.
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is thinking about killing himself. He's a teenager who's been saddled with the normal teenage angst, but he just doesn't know how to deal with it. His parents are pushy, his life seems to be spiraling out of control, and suicide seems like the only plausible option. Only Craig doesn't really want to do it. He's just looking for someone, anyone, to commiserate with him. That's why he checks himself into a mental health facility. He hopes to get some help and be ready to leave in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on life with a new vigor.
The officials at the facility inform Craig that he'll have to stay a minimum of five days so they can get a proper diagnosis for him. Craig meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) a man who's been at the end of his own rope many times. They strike up a friendship and Bobby dispenses the requisite older man wisdom to Craig, even if some of his greatest sayings come from Bob Dylan songs.
In order to keep this movie as generic as possible, Craig finds that he ends up really liking the dysfunctional girl down the hall. Noelle (Emma Roberts) is just as depressed as the rest of them as her horizontal wrist scars indicate. The love story between the two feels tacked on and superficial, like it didn't really need to be there but was added at the last second.
'It's Kind of a Funny Story' tries too hard to have some kind of semblance to a purely indie movie. Its cut-away scenes are jarring and never add much to the story, artistically or otherwise. '(500) Days of Summer' used the same number of cut-away scenes, ones that ran the gamut of black and white photography, to surreal animation. 'It's Kind of a Funny Story' does the same exact thing, but it never seems to fit. When the movie cuts to an animated sequence that has us flying through one of the cities Craig likes to draw, we wonder what this has to do with anything. It's a nuisance.
There are plenty of other movies about mental institutions out there that have much more heart. 'It's Kind of a Funny Story' doesn't even come close to stacking up against 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' or even 'Girl, Interrupted.' We never get the feeling that Craig is any real danger. The way he acts towards his depression is aloof. Most of the time he looks like a happy-go-lucky kid who just has a few too many things on his plate. There's never a point where we feel Craig might not make it, and because of that the movie fails to engage us on a human level.
Set in the bleak, antiseptic mental ward of a hospital, 'It's Kind of a Funny Story' hits Blu-ray with a rather muted 1080p transfer. That's not to say that the visuals here are bad or underwhelming, the color palette calls for a sterile environment, and that's just what we get.
Icy blues, stark whites, and dull grays dominate the color scheme as the patients shuffle up and down the halls of the ward. There isn't a lot of color to go around here, but there are bursts of it with Craig's paintings and a roof scene that finally breaks the hum-drum sterilized look of the hospital interior. Skin tones are consistent and natural. You can see the small scratches on Emma Robert's face clearly, and even with the brief glimpse of her cut up wrists, the clarity still allows you to distinctly make out her numerous scars.
Softness does hamper some of the movie's intricate detail, but that's mostly because of the filmmaker's choice of where the camera is focusing. This isn't a slight against the presentation, as it accurately represents what the filmmaker wants you to see. There are, however, a few moments where DNR looks like it's been applied, causing a smeared look to the image. It isn't overtly noticeable, but people with an eye for DNR overuse are bound to find it easily. Noise, artifacting, or any other nuisances are kept at bay. It's a clean transfer, with a minor flaw here and there, but largely a great looking presentation.
Universal's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is just slightly above average when it comes to dialogue-centric mixes. Dialogue comes through cleanly and intelligibly. Directionality works nicely, especially when the Hasidic Jew who occupies a far away room yells from off screen for people to keep it down. Conversations are crisp and clear without any words getting lost in the commotion of a mental ward. There were a few times where whispers where a little hard to hear, but not unintelligible.
The sound design is largely confined upfront. Even in this semi-busy hospital the surrounds don't do much work. They do spring to life, however, during the odd rendition of "Under Pressure" by Queen, showing that this mix does indeed have some life to it. The LFE also kicks in here too, offering a great amount of bass, which is lacking in much of the rest of the film. When a song by Method Man blasts onto the soundtrack, it's kind of jarring, because the LFE seems to be overcompensating for its silent times. Even if the song seems oddly misplaced by the filmmakers, it's accurately represented by this mix, giving it a deep, resonant bass line to rock out to. Aside from those instances, this is a reserved track that doesn't offer much in the way of subtle ambience when it's just going about its business. For the most part this audio mix seems a little flat.
'It's Kind of a Funny Story' lacks focus, substance, and a human connection. It's lead (who incidentally is amazing in Showtime's 'The United States of Tara') seems rather safe here. He's never in any real danger, and therefore his situation doesn't seem all that dire. It's hard to connect with him when he's just a lonely teenager dealing with a few problems about his parents, school, and girls. I understand these can raise huge issues for kids, but the problem is that Craig never sells it. He's simply coasting through this movie with a smile on his face. He's never asked to break down and get emotional. The love story seems like it was tacked on to please a mass audience, and so we could have that obligatory "Awwww!" feeling at the end of the movie. If you're a fan of the movie or are interested in seeing it, this Blu-ray features good audio and video. The special features are pretty skimpy. I can only recommend a rental for it though. I just can't fathom wanting to watch this more than once.