'IF' Only This Film Knew Whether It Was for Kids or Adults

Directed by John Krasinski

Starring Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., Alan Kim, Liza Colón-Zayas, Steve Carell

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

BY Rachel HoPublished May 16, 2024


Picking up where the Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. franchises left off, John Krasinski's latest directorial effort brings to life the imaginary friends of our childhood. A generally heartwarming film featuring some of the industry's best behind-the-camera talents, IF unfortunately fails to join the ranks of its similar-concept colleagues due to a flat script and a confusing tone.

The film follows Bea (Cailey Fleming), a preteen who travels to New York City to visit her father (John Krasinski) in hospital before he undergoes a heart procedure. While at her grandmother's apartment, where she spent time as a tot, Beau suddenly gains the ability to see animated creatures in the building. After meeting her neighbour, Cal (Ryan Reynolds), Bea discovers that he too shares this ability, and that these little figures are actually the imaginary friends (or IFs, if you will) of kids who no longer see them. In between visits to see her dad at the hospital, Bea joins Cal on an adventure to connect these IFs with new kids.

IF follows an imaginative premise that eventually unfolds into a poignant conclusion reminiscent of Toy Story 3 that will surely strike a nerve with adults. Consequently, though, the themes surrounding that conclusion will be understood by children but not appreciated, simply due to the fact that they're still kids and life hasn't quite beaten them down just yet.

Blending adult themes with an outwardly appearing kid's movie can work extremely well (the aforementioned Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. movies being perfect examples); however, where IF missteps is in its childlike delivery of these mature messages. Krasinski offers a script that panders to children to the extent that an adult audience just won't engage. But if the loud yawn by the kid sitting behind me was any indication, kids didn't find the storytelling all that appealing either. I don't think that's for lack of intelligence or maturity, but simply because it's not a part of their lived experience yet.

Krasinski builds a film that echoes the atmosphere and aesthetic of family films of the '80s and '90s with the help of Michael Giacchino's score and Janusz Kamiński's cinematography. There's swells of orchestration and light, creating a beautiful glowing warmth that feels safe and almost dream-like at times. Add in that Krasinski seemed to call every celebrity on his contact list, the film features a set of great voice performances, ranging from Steve Carell's supporting role to a cameo from George Clooney.

IF doesn't lack the talent, tools or foundation to be a success — it only lacks a consistent tone.

(Paramount Pictures)

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