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Review: IF (2024)

IF (2024)

Directed by: John Krasinski

Premise: A twelve-year-old girl (Cailey Fleming) is left alone while her father undergoes heart surgery. She discovers a group of imaginary friends whose children have grown up. She assists an adult man (Ryan Reynolds) in finding them new homes.

What Works: IF channels the family friendly works of Steven Spielberg, namely E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Pixar films such as Monsters Inc. IF shares with those films a whimsical sensibility and an appreciation for childhood imagination. The imaginary friends are unusual beings and the kind of creations that would credibly be created by children. Young actor Cailey Fleming impresses in the lead role as Bea. Although she’s underserved by the script, Fleming is a confident and convincing screen presence and her reactions sell the reality of the imaginary characters.

What Doesn’t: While the filmmakers of IF imitate the aesthetic of Spielberg and Pixar, they forget many of the most important qualities that made those films work. Those pictures invested in their characters and the filmmakers were not afraid to put the characters in peril. IF lacks basic storytelling elements. Most critically, the film is bereft of conflict or dramatic stakes. Stories are about characters and their wants and needs and the obstacles they overcome to satisfy those desires. Bea has no desire. She’s upset about her father’s medical condition but nothing comes of this; the medical subplot is disconnected from the rest of the story. Bea decides to assist these imaginary friends for no reason and there are no consequences for her if she fails. The picture tells us that the imaginary characters will disappear if they don’t find a home but it’s never clear if that’s actually the case. Even if it is true, the imaginary characters are never at any risk of vanishing. The whole film is conflict adverse and when the filmmakers attempt to create big emotional moments these scenes come across flat and unearned. The rest of the characters lack personality. The imaginary friends are just walk-on characters; compare them to the characters of the Toy Story films which have distinguishing characteristics and complex personalities. This lack of personality is most evident in Ryan Reynolds role as Cal. He’s not really a character; Reynolds is on autopilot with the same wise guy shtick he’s been doing for years. And in this whimsical story about imaginary friends, Reynolds is the most unbelievable part. This twelve-year-old girl runs all over town with an adult man who she’s only just met and neither of them (or anyone else) questions this. That’s indicative of an underlying flaw of IF; the movie doesn’t make sense and it’s poorly thought out.

Bottom Line: IF is a shallow imitation of much better family films. The picture coasts on its whimsy and humor but there’s just nothing to it. The fantasy doesn’t make sense and the storytelling is lazy.

Episode: #998 (June 2, 2024)