IF Review

‘IF’ is a film very much like the purple monster Blue, a key IF (Imaginary Friend). They’re both warm and fuzzy, able to comfort with their hugs, boasts a talented voice cast, imaginative in design and is anchored by Cailey Fleming. But Blue’ negatives are reflected in the film too, both come off as tryhard and clingy, and with a message that is both on the nose and forges any of the visual imagination.

Paramount Pictures

Cailey Fleming holds the film with a wonderful performance of Bea. Despite only being in a handful of films before ‘IF’, manages to carry some of the more emotional beats on her back, displays childlike wonder and joy elegantly. Her performance enables the film to have the warmth that it does. She also brings the ability to interact with CGI beings, something that’s hard to do else it risks looking stupid. With a film based around CGI characters, this is no small feat is is vital to the film’s success.

Ryan Reynolds on the other hand, plays a less compelling character called Cal. He’s there to serve as a guide for all the lost IFs, though has become downbeat and a bit irritable after facing little success. Reynolds is as charming as ever, and breaks out of the Deadpool-style mould he’s created for himself. He’s allowed to be serious without undercutting any whimsy. His character has a twist backstory (one that rewards those paying attention), but it doesn’t explain why his character is so irritable or what drives him, which makes him hard to connect with. At times, he doesn’t have that much to do either. 

Paramount Pictures

The supporting cast is a veritable who’s who of John Krasinski’s contact list, with the likes of Steve Carell, Emily Blunt, Awkwafina, Matt Damon, Bradley Cooper, Sam Rockwell, Fiona Shaw and more. Brad Pitt even makes a special cameo in the film, a welcome in-joke (admittedly solely for parents). That caliber of cast here is unparalled, and they all perform just as well as an audience would expect, brilliantly. 

The only celebrity voice actor that feels out of place is Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She’s cast as the voice of Blossom, a young and small looking being that likes to dance, drink tea and go to swim classes. But Waller-Bridge does nothing to alter her voice, which makes it instantly recogniseable as an adult. It’s not in line with how Blossom looks, making it jarring. Waller-Bridge needed recasting or Blossom needed aging up so she looks as old as she sounds.  

It’s clear from the very first moment of the film that a lot of effort has gone into it, right down to the hand drawn Paramount logo that opens the film. One particular sequence brims with effort and whimsy, a memorable scene full of child-like imagination. It’s brilliant to witness and wonderfully animated. The IFs themselves are imaginative and are beautifully designed. 

The script however, feels like it’s trying too hard. Its central message of holding on the childlike sense of wonder is at times very on the nose, at times overbearing. While it’s aimed at a younger audience, it doesn’t connect with the adults watching. The message too is trite, and could have itself done with more imagination. Writer director John Krasinski can’t nail the Pixar quality and appeal to parents and their kids at the same time.

It’s also at times trying to do too much. Bea is worried at the thought of losing her dad at the start of the film, which comes back briefly later on, though if this worry was referenced even once more then it would have made the emotional payoff at the end mean much more. Instead, the film spreads itself thin, keen to explore other  avenues like finding the IFs new homes, or reconnecting them with their now adult originators. A tighter focus on this driving emotional force could have helped it resonate all the more.

‘IF’ is held together with a well-talented cast, especially with its lead Cailey Fleming. The message is a bit overplayed and full-on, but there’s still warmth to be found, along with the boundless imagination with the film’s visuals. It’s a pleasant film to watch with a younger audience, though not quite a fit for the whole family.

Kieran Burt

My name is Kieran and I am based in the UK. I love writing about all things science fiction and fantasy, particularly Star Wars and Marvel. When I’m not writing or watching anything sci-fi related, you can probably find me exploring the open worlds of alternate lands through my Xbox.

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