Creating humor out of a group of mental patients isn't a very difficult task, but creating interesting characters who actually feel like real people out of a group of mental patients is. There may be a lot of fun to be had in It's Kind of a Funny Story, but there is a lot more truth in it. Though it may be a little formulaic in some areas, its flaws are more than overcome by its wit and intelligence, and by a somewhat surprisingly great performance from Zack Galifianakis, who is finally getting, and hopefully staying, away from just being the awkwardly quiet deliverer of one-liners in the background. The brilliance of the movie, and of all of its performances, is that the focus is less about comedy, and more about characters who happen to be naturally funny, which allows this material to breathe a little bit without being burdened with the task of churning out a laugh with every other line of dialogue. The result certainly happens to be very funny, but also honest and heartfelt.
I could almost see this film being co-opted by this year's high school seniors and college freshmen as the movie that totally defines who they are, like a Juno or a (500) Days of Summer, but the difference between this and those is that this never sacrifices its integrity for unnecessarily over-cute dialogue exchanges and directorial flourishes. Instead it's just a simple portrait of a teenager unable to decide what he wants to do with his life. The course that the film takes to figure this out is definitely odd, but it's honest, and it's fantastic.