Hot for his best friend's girlfriend, stressed out over an application to a prestigious summer school, and audaciously neglectful of his Zoloft, 16-year-old Brooklyn high-schooler Craig (Keir Gilchrist) commits himself to a psych ward after tepid fantasies of jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge start warming.
With this young-adult riff on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, writers and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck seem, at first glance, far from the social realism of their previous features, Half Nelson and Sugar. But rather than a humorous departure from self-seriousness, It's Kind of a Funny Story doubles down, uniting broad comedy with leaden sloganeering for a super-sincere, tonally awry amusement tour of post-9/11 despair.
We meet an eclectic community of colorful New Yorkers mentally challenged by modern living, from a Patriot Act paranoid to Craig's in-house father figure (Zach Galifianakis, taking his first step toward sad-clown legitimacy), who's caught in a cycle of unemployment, poverty and rage.
Meanwhile, our hero's stay in the nuthouse boosts his ego and affirms his entitlement, and in five short days, he learns that he's a master illustrator and a natural singer. "I used to think art was just bourgeois decadence," a wiser Craig says in the end, which is funny, because that's kind of what this film is.