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IF

IF




Rated PG - for thematic elements and mild language.
Director: John Krasinski
Starring: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw; voices of Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, George Clooney
Running Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: May 17, 2024

READER RATING:   


Plot Summary

A young girl who goes through a difficult experience begins to see everyone's imaginary friends who have been left behind as their real-life friends have grown up. (from IMDB)


Film Review

It's rare when a movie can really impact a viewer deeply on several levels. Granted, I know I'm not the traditional moviegoer; emotions run strong with me - for better or worse - so when I connect with a movie, I can connect pretty strongly. From director/actor John Krasinski (The Office, A Quiet Place, Jack Ryan), we have IF, a family movie that centers around the theme of growing up and those imaginary friends that help us along the way. The movie feels a lot like something Pixar would bring us, but in live action form instead of their usual animated style, with a whimsical and magical feel to it that is joyful, beautiful, cute, funny, thoughtful and just plain wonderful.

IF
In this story, a 12-year-old girl named Bea returns to her family's home years after having left, with only her grandmother still living there. (It's rather ambiguous as to the actual living situation in the flashbacks at the beginning of the film.) As years have passed, Bea lost her mother to an illness, and is now staying with her grandmother as her dad preps for a risky heart surgery of his own in a local hospital. He encourages Bea to not worry about him and, instead, find some fun in the city. Despite being just 12 years old, the harshness of life and loss has her firmly believing she isn't a kid anymore, but when she suddenly runs into a mysterious man named Calvin and a creature named Blossom living in an apartment upstairs, she's confronted with a whole new world. When she meets them, and a gigantic furry purple creature named Blue, she's introduced to the concept of imaginary friends - or, "IF's" for short. She quickly decides to help Calvin find new kids for these abandoned IF's whose children grew out of them, and in the process, she rediscovers the imagination and wonder that she has been missing for years.

IF has all the makings of a classic fantasy adventure film. While it's certainly aimed at kids, it's just as much for the adults, too -- although not certainly for all of them. The film's story also involves adults rediscovering their passions, what they loved when they were younger, and their need for creativity and imagination at their present age. It certainly helps that brilliant composer Michael Giacchino - who's a wizard at using music to convey emotion, having largely gotten his start as the composer for all 6 seasons of LOST, and having since scored many Disney, Pixar and Marvel films - is at the top of his game here, using swelling strings and delicate piano work to elevate nearly every scene. A recurring musical theme also changes to use perky whistles to help capture the whimsy and bouncy nature of the most upbeat moments in the story. I don't think a better choice of composer could have been made for this movie.

IF
Cailey Fleming is charming as Bea, with an infectious passion for helping others and rediscovering the innocence of her youth. She also has a beautiful relationship with her family, especially her lighthearted father, played by John Krasinski - who doesn't stray too far from his most fun moments as Jim Halpert in The Office (fans might even recognize one thing he does here as being a callback to a prank he did to Dwight on the show). There's no angsty preteen drama here. No one's yelling at, degrading, or chastising anyone. It's refreshing to just see a wholesome loving family on screen for a change. (After all, it's hopeful and a nice deviation from harsh dramatic stories that can mimic real life a little too well.) Ryan Reynolds brings just the right amount of fun and prickliness to the character of Calvin, who seems to be a little bitter about being stuck with the IF's and having to help them. Reynolds reigns in his usual vulgar humor to keep things far more family-friendly. He is responsible for most of the mild language in the movie, however, with one use of "d*mn," a couple of "h*ll," and a whole lot of variations of "G-d" as an exclamation. Some family films go out of their way to replace the use of "God" in exclamations with something more benign like "gosh" or "goodness," but this, sadly, isn't one of those movies.

IF
These days, when movies promise a sense of whimsy or creativity, it's almost always a letdown. In most of those cases, you leave kinda feeling like you wanted more and didn't get it. Thankfully, Krasinski and his filmmaking team really tap into their creative sides here, showing how a child's imagination can literally sweep you away. A sequence where Bea's imagination and creations whisk Calvin through a series of world-bending changes, it's absolutely delightful and a wonderful feast for the senses. The IF world feels immersive and joyful, with flourishes of silliness and humor, and a star-studded cast of cameos that provide voices for the bizarre assortment of IF's. (We're talking Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Bill Hader, Sam Rockwell, and more!) Steve Carell is adorable as the voice of Blue. He has a bit of the nuttiness of his character of Hammy from Over the Hedge, but more so here as a big lovable, and hopelessly innocent, oaf. IF is bursting with heart, and at the center - next to Bea, really - is Blue and Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Blossom. Some might find the movie to be a sweetness overload, but it's just refreshing to have an uncynical movie brimming with emotional moments and good nature (yes, bring tissues. I was literally biting my lip so I wouldn't be a blubbering mess in the last act of the film). IF is a movie about reconnecting with the joys and passions of youth, especially when the cold harshness of life and adulthood can strip us of that.

I touched briefly on the content of IF, namely the language mentioned above, but the only other content, I suppose, would be violence, although it's pretty much all slapstick for comedic purposes. Thematically is where IF will trip up some more sensitive viewers. The movie opens with blissful scenes of a young Bea playing with her parents and singing and dancing in old home movies, but it's also how we learn of her mother's illness and then meet the now-12-year-old after her mother has since passed away. It's almost as heart-wrenching as the devastating montage from UP, but it's a necessary part of the plot. So when the potential for loss confronts Bea again, it's tough to imagine this sweet young girl having to endure this again. The theme of time passing us by, our inescapable trappings of adult committments, and the loss of passions also move the heart. There's definitely a lot of ground covered, emotionally, in this film... and it makes it more beautiful.

IF
I'm always reluctant to slap a perfect score on a movie (or especially a musical project), but IF arrested my attention, grabbed me by the heartstrings, and took me along for the length of its duration. The payoff makes the journey worth it, too. While it's hard to know how to rate a movie based on its one viewing (which can also be largely influenced by our own life circumstances at the time of our viewing), or on its rewatchability, I'm very curious to see how well IF holds up to repeat viewings. But with just one experience of it, I was truly captivated. The regular use of God's name as an exclamation is really my only hangup with the movie. (And if you decide to sit and nitpick little plot points - like who in their right mind gives their 12-year-old daughter the go-ahead to go on an adventure all alone in the heart of New York City, for example) So if you're looking for a little fantastical escapism that is anxious to pull at your heartstrings, IF just might be the movie you've been waiting for.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/13/24)

 

 

Parental Guide: Content Summary


. Sex/Nudity: Calvin tells the banana IF to "put on some pants, you're freaking everybody out."
. Vulgarity/Language: 3 "h*ll," 1 "d*mn," 9 "Oh G-d," 2 "Good G-d," 1 "for G-d's sake," 4 "Oh my G-d"
. Alcohol/Drugs: None.
. Blood/Gore: None.
. Violence: Several characters trip over an invisible IF a couple times during the movie; As Bea's imagination transforms a building, Calvin tries running away from the floor changing around him. As he's running, he stumbles into new scenarios happening around him, like an open wall falling around him, a couple knights fighting a fire-breathing dragon, and people carrying him off a stage to crowd-surf in the audience of a concert. At one point, he finds himself inside a painting and as he crawls out of the picture frame, paint is smeared all over his face and clothes. He then proceeds to stumble through an art studio, knocking over easels and canvases; At one point, Bea goes upstairs of her grandmother's apartment building to knock on another apartment's door and an old woman emerges from her nearby apartment in the dark to see what is going on. Her being bathed in darkness freaks Bea out who tries to rush inside the other apartment; The eyeball of a flaming marshmallow slides off its face and globs onto the table it's standing on. Calvin reacts in disgust and dry-heaves a couple times; Blue tries to confront a man in a restroom who was once the kid who believed in him, but he ends up sneezing violently. The man doesn't see Blue, but the sneeze causes him to spazz a bit, breaking the sink from the wall some and spill his coffee on himself; and other minor comedic situations.

 

Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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