It's Kind of a Funny Story (PG-13) ★★★

Review Date: September 24th, 2010

On the hit television show The Secret Life of the American Teenager, protagonist Amy Juergens has to deal with high school drama, boy troubles, the needs of her young child and more, making her days at Ulysses S. Grant High School far from ideal. In reality, the lives of youngsters are even more complicated, as all of the above, in addition to peer pressure, academic competition and the age-old quest to be cool can overwhelm the most focused individual.

Writers-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) both dramatize and make light of the plight of pubescents in their sweet new film It's Kind of a Funny Story. Based on Ned Vizzini's novel, which chronicles a lonesome teen's brief stay at an adult psychiatric ward, it is a very funny story, but the filmmakers keep it levelheaded with melancholy supporting characters and a message about the affliction of our society's medicated youth.

Keir Gilchrist (The United States of Tara) plays Craig, a chronically depressed Brooklyn teen who checks in for treatment after contemplating suicide. An over-achiever caught up in the rat race that is the American Dream, Craig's pessimism and depression stem from neglectful parents more concerned with him gaining acceptance into an elite school than following his passions. His anxiety is aggravated by the dreadful current events of our time, notably the wars and financial meltdown that have crippled the aspirations of much of our country's youth. Though he is a bit over-dramatic, Craig's ailment does raise notable points about paternal priorities and an entire generation of disheartened dreamers.

But surrounded by the hospital's eccentric group of patients, including Emma Roberts' damaged love interest Noelle and Zach Galifianakis' emotionally guarded Bobby, Craig makes a psychological breakthrough. Gilchrist is like the love child of Justin Long and Jay Baruchel, but isn't nearly as fun to watch as either of those hot-at-the-moment performers, save for one Flight of the Conchords moment in the middle of the movie. It's not that he's unconvincing; he's just dull. Luckily, Galifianakis steals the show at every turn, giving his first ever three-dimensional performance and earning all the attention he's been getting lately.

Had its story been laid out ordinarily, It's Kind of a Funny Story wouldn't have been nearly as affecting as it is. But a series of funky flashbacks, quirky cut-scenes and animated sequences make the film's otherwise predictable narrative abstract, original and refreshing. rated this film 3 stars.