IF (2024)

Genre: Fantasy/Children
Director: John Krasinski
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Cailey Fleming, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., Alan Kim, Liza Colón-Zayas, Steve Carell
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins
Rating: PG
Released By: UIP
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 16 May 2024

Synopsis: From writer and director John Krasinski, IF is about a girl who discovers that she can see everyone’s imaginary friends — and what she does with that superpower — as she embarks on a magical adventure to reconnect forgotten IFs with their kids. IF stars Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Cailey Fleming, Fiona Shaw, and the voices of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr. and Steve Carell alongside many more as the wonderfully unique characters that reflect the incredible power of a child’s imagination.

Movie Review:

To John Krasinski’s credit, ‘IF’ is an ambitious change of genre following ‘A Quiet Place’ and its sequel. Unfortunately, as much as we had tried to embrace it, ‘IF’ never quite takes flight beyond an admirable thought experiment.

Clearly inspired by such Disney/ Pixar’s hits like ‘Toy Story’, ‘Monsters, Inc’ and ‘Up’, ‘IF’ tells of 12-year-old Bea (a terrific Cailey Fleming) who, after moving back into her grandmother (Fiona Shaw)’s apartment while her dad (Krasinski) awaits a potentially life-threatening surgery, unexpectedly acquires the ability to see imaginary friends (hence the acronym ‘IF’).

For reasons that will only be known at the end, some of these friends happen to reside on the top floor of the same building with the cranky Cal (Ryan Reynolds), whom Bea learns used to be a clown; these IFs include Blossom, a saucer-eyed ballerina bug named Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and a giant purple fur ball named Blue (Steve Carell). Cal tells Bea that Blossom and Blue are just two of the IFs that have been forgotten by the kids who had dreamt them up, and these IFs now have largely been resigned to a retirement home within an abandoned amusement park on Coney Island.

It isn’t hard to guess that Bea will go on a mission to reunite the IFs with their now-grown humans, or for that matter how the reunion will rekindle the latter’s sense of wonder and in some instances, self-confidence. Krasinski, who wrote and directed the movie, clearly intends for it to be a sweet fable about reconnecting with our inner child as well as the wonders of our childhood imagination, and his intention is evidently clear.  

What he fails to do though is weave it into a coherent premise. Unlike say animation, live-action needs a semblance of logic to work – and as willing as we were to suspend our disbelief, we cannot quite shake off our confusion whether the IFs are real or simply imaginary. On one hand, they seem to be the former, needing to open doors (than walk through them) or tiptoe gingerly around a bedroom full of toys; on the other, it is puzzling how no one seems to sense their physical presence, even at close proximity. That simple logic, or in this case lack thereof, leaves the film struggling to hold itself together from scene to scene.

It is also not very compelling, to say the least. Beyond the excitement of seeing such quirky characters as a jiffy unicorn (Emily Blunt), a superheroic pup (Sam Rockwell), a giant sunflower (Matt Damon) or a massive gummy bear (Amy Schumer) – there is little else to hold our attention, especially because it does take a while for the story to come together. Oh yes, much of the first two acts is spent on world-building, and though Krasinski injects plenty of charm and heartfelt whimsy, it is also intermittently engaging, lacking sufficient heft to hold its various disparate elements together.

And there are many – besides her discovery of the world of IFs, Bea’s mission of reuniting Blue and Blossom with their creators, as well as her emotional journey coping with the memories of her late mother during her childhood days while trying to stay optimistic about her father’s impending surgery. What is glaringly missing amidst the scattershot treatment is Cal, who seems to not have a job or any qualms spending all day hanging out with a 12-year-old girl, though there is a good answer to that which is poignant even if it doesn’t make much sense.

For all of its flaws, ‘IF’ does manage to stick its ending – we won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say that it does have a surprisingly moving twist that is just sincere enough to make you forgive it for its shortcomings before. It doesn’t hurt that Krasinski is probably one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, and has assembled a roster of A-list cameos including Awkwafina, Bradley Cooper, Keegan-Michael Key, Maya Rudolph, Amy Schumer, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, and the late Louis Gossett Jr., to whom the movie is dedicated.

It feels uncharitable criticising a movie that has every good intention, or even a filmmaker like Krasinski who has boldly ventured out of his comfort zone to take on a wholly different genre. The live-action animation genre has always been a tough sell – especially given how it has to offer a value proposition beyond just animation – and while it has its moments, ‘IF’ fails to fully develop its ambitious concept into an equally fascinating story, leaving you instead wondering not just ‘what if…’ but what more it could have been.

Movie Rating:

('IF' has an intriguing concept, but never quite builds itself into anything compelling)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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