By Pat Holohan, Staff Writer
If you've seen a trailer for "It's Kind of a Funny Story," you get the gist: Craig is depressed
Very depressed. So depressed that he's suicidal. He checks himself into the psychiatric wing of a hospital for help, where he meets a cast of wacky characters who try to crack his shell and help him grow.
Which means that, this being a PG-13 movie, you know Craig's going to get better and learn something about himself along the way. The difference between this and other depression stories is that this one passes the happy ending cringe test.
I sat through the three quarters of the movie wondering if the movie is going to tell me that, in order to overcome depression, all we need to do is appreciate life, ride a bike, fall in love and will suffer no medically demonstrable stresses.
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" does a nice job there, providing a realistic resolution without singing joyfully about how bright the sky suddenly is.
The movie also succeeds in its portrayal of mental illness. The characters are real, emotional humans who cannot be cured through sports and stimulation like the mental patients in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," or through mere days of treatment like the alcoholic protagonist in "Crazy Heart.
Zach Galifianakis is brilliant in his departure from comedy. Bobby has one foot in the mental hospital and another in the real world as a father who is incapable of being there for his daughter
Keir Gilchrist is good as Craig, playing a cross between Zach Braff's character in "Garden State" and Michael Cera in every Michael Cera movie. Emma Roberts' Noelle is somewhat stereotypical as the damaged, depressed hipster girl, but the awkward chemistry between the couple is believable and it works.
Craig's parents, played by Jim Gaffigan and Lauren Graham, only play into parental archetypes, with Graham playing the concerned but overwhelmed mother and Gaffigan as the workaholic, overbearing father. Craig's sister is noted to be a genius but her character is never further developed.
Despite stale supporting characters, "It's Kind of a Funny Story" has a lot more strengths than weaknesses, especially in avoiding the sappy sentimentality it could have had.