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Home > ‘IF’ (2024): A Review

‘IF’ (2024): A Review

Director John Krasinski steps away from horror and reminds viewers of the importance of imagination with “IF.” | Steve Carell as Blue in "IF" | Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Imagination Is Brought To Life

After dwelling in the horror realm, writer and director John Krasinski leaves the scares behind in exchange for childlike wonder. Although Krasinski’s writing and directing of the film is enough on its own to be exciting, one of the main draws is the impressive cast the film was able to gather. Cailey Fleming stars alongside Ryan Reynolds and Krasinski, with the voice cast including some of Hollywood’s most recognizable stars. 

Numerous familiar faces lent their voices to the many imaginary characters including Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., Awkwafina, Emily Blunt, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Hader, Amy Schumer, Sam Rockwell, Keegan-Michael Key, Blake Lively, Sebastian Maniscalco, Richard Jenkins, and Jon Stewart. 

Imaginary Friends Made Real

“IF” follows Bea, a young girl who recently moved into her grandmother’s apartment in New York City and soon discovers that she has the ability to see IFs (imaginary friends). When she learns that her neighbor Cal also has the same abilities, the two team up to try and save the abandoned IFs, pairing them with new kids after their original child grew up and forgot about them.

It can be hard to find great children and family films that also appeal to adults. Even if it’s not the filmmaker’s intention, the movies tend to swing low and not challenge viewers to think critically, but rather to just be mindless entertainment that bombards viewers with quick cuts and bright colors. In the past, Pixar and Dreamworks did a great job at balancing between being child-oriented but also having elevated narratives that touch adults as well. Hits such as the Toy Story franchise, Shrek, and The Incredibles included plot lines with which only adults could connect.

IF toes this line by being a wholesome, innocent family film, while also injecting themes relevant to adults. It makes sure to keep kids as the main focus, as the main themes explored involve the pains and confusion of growing up, as well as navigating the difficulties of life. However, it doesn’t forget to involve the parents taking their kids to the movie by including narratives for them. One of the main plot lines involves finding ways to have adults reconnect with their inner child and reclaim the imagination they lost once they grew up.

It panders heavily toward the adult audience by touching on phases of life children have yet to experience. It almost preserves the film for the younger audience who will grow up with the movie, as it will likely take on a new meaning for them once they’re older, similar to how movies such as Finding Nemo have elements that age like wine as viewers grow up with the story and characters. 

Switch In Tones

Although Krasinski made two films, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and The Hollars, before working on A Quiet Place, the latter is for what he is most known. His work in horror has become a staple of his career, similar to how Jordan Peele has now become synonymous with the horror genre despite his many years of working in comedy. IF shows, once again, that Krasinski has a keen eye for directing and can work within various genres. From comedy to drama, romance, horror, and now children’s films, Krasinski brings his signature style. Krasinski leans into the imagination of children with its whimsical story and expressive characters, a departure from what he’s worked on before.

Whereas in his previous two Quiet Place films, Krasinski was able to master pace, he however struggled with it at times in IF. The first and third acts are enjoyable overall, but the second act wrestles with pacing. It doesn’t have a consistent flow as it bounces from being engaging to being dull. Almost all of the tedious scenes occur when Bea isn’t with Cal and the IFs. Since it takes a while for the IFs to be introduced, once they’re integrated into the plot, they leave a noticeable mark when they are not present. It’s almost as if Krasinski was trying to rush through the scenes without them to get to the exciting moments with them. 

Playing Make-Believe

No matter how touching and sentimental the story is, the film as a whole wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t for the two main leads. Ryan Reynolds brings his usual shtick from his past few movies, with his comedic timing and charm put on full display. His role as Cal doesn’t have much of a story arc, but he serves as a likable, goofy, and at times grouchy character who leads the audience into the world of IFs. 

The main stand-out is Calley Fleming as Bea. Since the movie rides on her shoulders, she serves as the heartbeat of the story and carries the film well, especially being paired with Reynolds. Her character is put in a difficult spot as she has to juggle numerous things, such as grappling with past trauma, being scared of the future, and struggling to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. Likewise, she’s able to be believable when she interacts with the IFs, mainly Steve Carell as Blue. It can be challenging to star alongside numerous fully CGI characters, but Fleming’s interactions with them never come off as if she were acting alongside something that isn’t there. Through her performance, it’s easier to buy into the IFs being real, mainly some of the more obscure ones. 

While some of the voice work comes across purely as just a famous actor lending their voice to one of the IFs, the majority of the actors helped elevate their characters by bringing a distinct personality. For instance, Steve Carrell’s work as Blue brought a playful, childlike energy that made the character vibrant and likable. Out of all the IFs, Blue receives the most attention, thus allowing viewers to connect with him the most. The rest of the IFs work great as filler and fleshing out the world, showing the creative forms imaginary friends can take. 

Possibly A Timeless Classic

While IF doesn’t reinvent the genre or do anything unique, it almost captures a magic that hasn’t been seen in recent children’s movies. It leans into the enchanting wonders of childhood but doesn’t shy away from the harshness of growing up. It toes the line of being a fun, whimsical story while not forgetting to tell a valuable lesson. Unlike most children’s films, IF doesn’t forget about the adults as it infuses lessons for them, mainly revolving around their forgotten childhood. It struggles with pacing at times but makes up for it with likable characters and an entertaining story. IF might not be a perfect film for adults, but it will become a classic for kids who will grow up watching it.

IF is currently playing in theaters.

IF (2024) Official Trailer Courtesy of Paramout Pictures

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Mason Kupiainen is a recent Butler University graduate with a degree in Creative Media and Entertainment. His work has been published in Butler Collegiate, The Mall, and Byte BSU. Along with written work, he has a videography portfolio with Indy Blue Video, Byte BSU, and Ball Bearings.

Sammie is an undergraduate student at Arcadia University where she is majoring in English and creative writing and minoring in media and communications. Sammie enjoys writing about her favorite movies and tv shows and hopes to have a career in the media industry.