With “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” writing-directing duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”, “Sugar”) have departed from the gritty realism that characterized their first movies in favor of a more light-hearted tone. This may seem strange for a movie that largely takes place in a mental hospital, but despite its melancholic setting, the film is generally pleasant and humorous.

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story”

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But that’s not to say it’s never sad. Keir Gilchrist (TV’s “United States of Tara”) stars as Craig — a suicidal 16-year-old who checks himself into a mental hospital. Because the teen ward is undergoing renovations, he finds himself among adult schizophrenics and drug addicts. Not surprisingly, he soon realizes his teenage woes aren’t quite as serious as his fellow patients’ problems. But though Craig realizes this early on and the audience probably anticipated it before the opening credits, the idea is continually harped on throughout the movie. And, paradoxically, while “Funny Story” emphasizes the not-so-seriousness of Craig’s problems, it also over-dramatizes them.

And the film is exceedingly predictable. In the first ten minutes, a series of obvious questions is set up. Will Craig hook up with his fellow patient, the cute blonde Noelle, played by Emma Roberts (“Nancy Drew”)? Will Craig’s roommate, a man who hasn’t left his room in years, finally be coaxed out by Craig’s irresistible charms? Will an unlikely friendship form between Craig and quirky patient Bobby (Zach Galifianakis, “The Hangover”)? But while you may know where the film is going, the characters are sufficiently endearing and the dialogue is witty enough to make the path enjoyable along the way.

“Funny Story” benefits from some well executed performances, most notably by Gilchrist, whose bashfulness and everyman (or every-teenager) demeanor makes him relatable and genuine, even through the sometimes-forced dialogue. Galifianakis also gives an impressive performance. Although he’s not given free comedic reign, which could have made a kind-of-funny film a very-funny film, his capacity for dramatic acting is stronger than one might expect from a comedic actor.

The film is in staunch contrast with the realistic, documentary-style filmmaking of the directors’ first two features. For “Funny Story,” they opt instead for a more nuanced style, characterized by more carefully composed images and brighter, whimsical production design to match the lighter tone of this film. But the movie is also full of visual gimmicks that often distract from the narrative. The audience is shown Craig’s fantasies (some of them animated), which sometimes turn into lengthy digressions that aren’t particularly amusing or informative. It feels like the filmmakers are trying too hard to let the audience know they’re making something different this time around. These asides are amusing and visually rapturous, but ultimately don’t add much.

And, though it does its best not to, “Funny Story” sometimes falls back on the tired tropes of the teen movie: Craig’s best friend is dating a girl with whom he’s “obsessed,” Craig realizes his best friend is an asshole, Craig finds out his problems aren’t really that bad, that his parents really do love him, etc. But its scope is larger than the average teen fare, and though it’s a bit heavy-handed in conveying its themes, “Funny Story” is poignant and highly enjoyable.

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