Sunday, May 19, 2024

“IF”

THE STORYAfter discovering she can see everyone’s imaginary friends, a girl embarks on a magical adventure to reconnect forgotten IFs with their kids.

THE CASTCailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr. & Steve Carell

THE TEAMJohn Krasinski (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME104 Minutes


In the early days of promoting “IF,” much was made about director John Krasinski’s open desire to make it feel like a “live-action Pixar film.” Thanks to the dearth of live-action family films, it seems it’s also a requirement to compare “IF” to the classics from Amblin Entertainment. Still, it’s easy to see these comparisons reflected in the final product, which is an adventurous family film that’s as funny as it is emotional. As similar in theme as “IF” might be to Pixar or Amblin, it’s still a quality film worthy of standing on its own merits. Though not without bumps in the road, “IF” has charm to spare, resulting in one of the best live-action family films in ages.

Bea, portrayed by the phenomenal Cailey Fleming, has already been through a lot in her 12 years. She lost her mom a few years ago – showcased in a heartwarming and tragic opening montage – and now returns to New York City, where her dad (Krasinski) is in the hospital. After moving back in with her grandma (Fiona Shaw), Bea has no interest in kids’ stuff. Her heart is a bit hardened, and she doesn’t really want to play around when she could lose her dad next. Soon, she begins to see some strange-looking people stalking around at night and discovers a whole world of imaginary friends abandoned, without their children.

Calvin (Ryan Reynolds) lives in an apartment upstairs from Bea and spends his days figuring out how to get these imaginary friends, or IFs, to pair with new kids. An all-star cast voices a wide variety of these imaginary friends. There’s Blue (Steve Carell), a giant fluffy IF, and Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a Betty Boop-esque dancer IF. Lewis (the late Louis Gossett Jr.) is a wise, human-sized teddy bear IF. But the characters get much more absurd than that. There’s an invisible IF, a unicorn IF (Emily Blunt), a bubble IF (Awkwafina), and even a walking glass of water with a talking ice cube (Bradley Cooper). Clearly, Krasinski let his imagination run wild here, both in the creativity of the imaginary friends and the jokes that accompany them. There are so many genuinely funny gags with all these characters that the energy is infectious. Yet, while the character design and animation are outstanding, the IFs are so cartoony that they don’t always blend well with the human world.

The trouble in blending the IFs into the human world doesn’t stop at the animation. “IF” hits a few bumps in the road while trying to combine the story of Bea helping the IFs with the drama of her father in the hospital. So little is shown about what’s happening to her dad – he says he just has a “broken heart” and needs a “procedure” – that it’s actually quite confusing. Why is he there? Where did Bea live before moving back to New York City? Why doesn’t Bea’s grandmother visit the hospital? It’s not always important to flesh out minor details, but there’s such little context to the story that it occasionally becomes distracting.

Despite the lack of cohesion between the hospital and the IFs, the story’s emotions hold strong. Bea tries to build walls around herself to avoid getting hurt again, but when we see her let loose with her imagination, it’s heartwarming. Bea connects adults to the imaginary friends they’d long forgotten, reviving their dreams and confidence. “IF” leans hard into the earnestness of these emotional moments beautifully. Fleming fills Bea with a cautious curiosity that sells every minute of the story. Some audiences may not appreciate a film wearing its heart on its sleeve so brazenly, but it’s a refreshing dose of optimism.

Michael Giacchino’s score boosts that optimism at every turn. It’s a bright, bouncy soundtrack that, in the best ways, resembles his classic Pixar work. Giacchino manages to capture the silliness of the IFs while not sacrificing the tenderness of the more human moments.

Not everything works flawlessly in “IF.” Nevertheless, the adventurous spirit and earnest emotions keep the film moving. The silly jokes work so well because they aren’t mean-spirited or punching down, nor do they feel overly sanitized. “IF” doesn’t treat kids like babies and, instead, lets an adventurous curiosity take the lead. By inviting both kids and adults to hold onto their imaginations, “IF” is an absolute blast.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Captures the magic of a childlike imagination. It's endlessly silly, with plenty of laughs and genuine emotion to balance a bumpy story. Cailey Fleming is a captivating lead, full of a guarded sense of wonder that helps the audience connect immediately.

THE BAD - While the imaginary portions are engaging and fun, not all the dots connect to the more human side of the story. Wears its heart on its sleeve, which some may find a bit too tween.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Visual Effects

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howathttps://nextbestpicture.com
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Captures the magic of a childlike imagination. It's endlessly silly, with plenty of laughs and genuine emotion to balance a bumpy story. Cailey Fleming is a captivating lead, full of a guarded sense of wonder that helps the audience connect immediately.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>While the imaginary portions are engaging and fun, not all the dots connect to the more human side of the story. Wears its heart on its sleeve, which some may find a bit too tween.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-visual-effects/">Best Visual Effects</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"IF"