‘IF’ movie review: John Krasinski’s sweet ode to childhood innocence wears thin

The film IF, directed by John Krasinski, attempts to dive into the endless imagination of children, though it somewhat misses the mark in delivering its message. The film’s concept of bringing imaginary friends from childhood to life is intriguing but the execution sadly doesn’t live up to its creative potential.

The plot centers around the character Bea, skillfully played by Cailey Fleming, a 12-year-old facing the potential loss of her father (John Krasinski) who is dealing with a serious surgical appointment. Bea, already tormented by her mother’s passing, becomes vulnerable to her inner world as she embarks on an adventure led by her neighbor, Calvin (Ryan Reynolds), after discovering her ability to see everyone’s imaginary friends.

IF (English)

Director: John Krasinski

Cast: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Alan Kim

Run-time: 104 minutes

Storyline: A young girl sees imaginary friends and sets off on a quest to help these ‘IFs’ reconnect with their creators or find new children to imagine them

Fleming delivers a spicy and moving performance despite a story that often seems more fitting for a school theater production than a big-screen film.

Reynolds is his usual clever and witty self, although his character’s perpetual exasperation quickly becomes tiresome. The physical slapstick comedy doesn’t quite resonate, as much of Reynold’s character remains unexplored.

The imaginary friends, such as the soft Blue (voiced by Steve Carell), who could be mistaken for a character from Monsters Inc, and other uniquely eccentric beings, ironically feel slightly more disconcerting than intended. The film boasts an impressive voice cast, yet most roles are superficial, with the potential of many characters left untapped.

The cast of imaginary friends (“IFs”) in a still from ‘IF’

The cast of imaginary friends (“IFs”) in a still from ‘IF’

However, amid the voice cast’s general average presentation, Louis Gossett Jr. stands out with a soothing performance as a wise old teddy bear. His scene on a pier at sunset is notably the film’s most touching moment.

Set in the 1990s, the film looks back fondly at a time before modern technology took hold, but its nostalgic elements sometimes seem more desperate than authentic.

The film hints at a deep metaphor but fails to explore it with any real depth. While touching on themes of loss and reconnecting with one’s youth, the narrative does not consistently develop these ideas throughout the film.

Even though IF occasionally shows promise when depicting adults rediscovering their youthful selves, like in Fiona Shaw’s dancing scene, these moments are sparse, and the bulk of the film focuses on Bea’s less convincing escapades.

Krasinski, once lauded for A Quiet Place, appears to have missed the blend of sentiment and comedy in IF. The film oscillates between being overly sweet and sluggish, and ultimately fails to embody the animated joy it seeks. Even the acclaimed composer Michael Giacchino’s best efforts can only partly salvage the disjointed narrative.

In the end, despite its momentary charm, IF lacks depth, rendering it a superficial reverie rather than the rich journey it could have been. Krasinski might be better off focusing on his horror storytelling roots rather than the whimsical.

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