IF Review: An Imaginative Treat That Doesn’t Fully Satisfy

John Krasinski's entertaining adventure fails to fully capitalize on its unique premise.

While The Office (U.S.) has become wildly popular over the last five years, John Krasinski, who rose to fame on the show playing loveable prankster Jim Halpert, has carved out an entirely new space for himself as a successful horror director. One of his first films, A Quiet Place, came out in 2018, followed by a direct sequel, A Quiet Place: Part II. Both films were met with critical and audience acclaim, explicitly praising his unique premise and ability to craft genuine tension. When a prequel, A Quiet Place: Day One, releasing in theatres next month, was announced without Krasinski as director, many wondered what his next project would be. 

Finally, he revealed IF – not a horror movie, but a family comedy he wrote during the pandemic. Starring Ryan Reynolds and featuring a slew of cameos from the most famous actors in Hollywood – including George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Maya Rudolph, and Matt Damon – IF is an enjoyable family comedy, even if it doesn’t quite stick the landing. It delivers thoughtful themes, vibrant visuals, and some of composer Michael Giacchino‘s best work. 

IF, short for ‘imaginary friends,’ follows a 12-year-old girl named Bea who, after losing her mother to cancer, now finds herself facing the possibility of losing her father. With this latest devastation thrust upon her, Bea discovers she has gained the ability to see everyone’s imaginary friends. She soon meets Cal (Reynolds), her upstairs apartment neighbour, and realizes he shares her gift. The premise itself is excellent. Unfortunately, Krasinski complicates it by introducing more ideas that only amount to misdirection.

When Bea first meets Cal, he sneaks into a child’s bedroom through the window to take back a purple IF named Blue (Steve Carrell) after mismatching him with the wrong child. You see, IFs that are forgotten eventually disappear even though all of these IFs have been forgotten but haven’t disappeared. To save them, Cal attempts to match IFs with new children before it’s too late. The movie spends much of its runtime on this plot point only for it not to matter.

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They eventually figure out that IFs are unique to the child who invented them and, in order to save them, they have to reunite them with their original kid. This is the real beating heart of IF, but it only presents itself in the last act and is rushed through when it should have been the film’s primary focus. 

Story complaints aside, Krasinski accomplishes a lot with this project. IF has a ton of positive elements, mainly the visuals, which are sometimes truly magical. It’s bright and colourful, featuring plenty of loveable CG-animated characters, from adorable stuffed animals to a melting marshmallow. Kids will adore the whimsical characters Krasinski has successfully brought to life and won’t question his flimsy world-building for a second.

Some have said that IF is reminiscent of classic family movies from the 80s, but it’s more similar to entertainment from the early 2000s, such as Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and Bridge to Terabithia. IF stands tall and firm compared to films like those, but compared to movies of this nature from Spielberg, it doesn’t stand a chance. 

Cailey Fleming, a young actress who has appeared in projects like Peppermint and Loki Season 1, carries most of the movie on her shoulders. Reynolds isn’t actually in the film as much as advertised – which is a good thing, since his presence becomes grating quite quickly. He really isn’t needed, frankly, because Fleming does a terrific job in her role, delivering a mature and dynamic performance that captures the uncertainty her character is experiencing. Fiona Shaw is as brilliant as usual in a smaller role playing Bea’s grandmother.

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Like most movies, IF has some misses, but the wins balance it out, making it a worthwhile time at the movies. The comedy doesn’t always land and the storytelling is shoddy, but those are easy to dismiss in favour of the quiet, earnest moments that Krasinski knocks out of the park. It may not be able to balance appealing to both children and adults, but IF does prove the necessity of holding on to one’s inner child, and that is more than worth the price of admission.

IF is now playing in theatres everywhere, courtesy of Paramount.



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