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It's Kind of a Funny Story

Laughs and lessons for a depressive in this new comedy

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Even though it's set in a psych ward, this third feature from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck is actually their most light-hearted. (Half-Nelson was about a teacher on crack, and Sugar tracked the failure of a minor-league ball player.) Keir Gilchrist plays Craig, a depressed, anxious 16-year-old who gets checked into the mental hospital for five days. He's placed in the adult ward, where, because he's a bright, sensitive kid, he learns some valuable lessons about more serious psychiatric disorders, navigating adolescence and useful coping strategies. (Hint: Be you.) 

It's tricky to set a teen comedy in such environs, but Boden and Fleck mange to walk a line between organically funny and winning cheap laughs from disabilities. It helps that Craig is a sympathetic character -- a nice guy whose self-absorption doesn't blind him to others' pain. He befriends a cute girl (whom the script kinda scrimps on), as well as the gruff, rebellious and sad Bobby (Zach Galifianakis, in a restrained performance). If it ultimately wraps up conveniently neat and tidy, it's hard to fault a smartly done teen film that's sweet, funny and totally rocks Queen's "Under Pressure." Starts Fri., Oct. 8.

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