'IF' review: Fun, fairweather family flick that leaves you wondering 'what if?'


Why are you called 'Blue' when you are clearly purple? — Photos: UIP Malaysia

If
Director: John Krasinski
Cast: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Alan Kim, Liza Colón-Zayas, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (voice), Louis Gossett Jr. (voice), Steve Carell (voice)

IF is a decent family movie that ticks all the right boxes. Cute and weird creatures? Check. Charming leads with good chemistry? Check. An emotional heartbeat centred around a father and his daughter? Check. A message about using your imagination to make your world a better place? Check.

The movie stars Cailey Fleming as 12-year-old Bea, whose father (John Krasinski, who also directs the film) is undergoing heart surgery in New York, so she ends up living with her grandmother’s (Fiona Shaw) apartment.

Bea then meets one of her neighbours, Cal (Reynolds), who apparently has a pretty magical job – he helps find new kids for imaginary friends whose creators have grown up and forgotten about them. With nothing better to do (apparently), Bea decides to help Cal with his mission, and along the way, she discovers emotions and memories that she had long forgotten.

It was getting incresingly hard to ignore the elephant, or rather, the big blue monster in the room.It was getting incresingly hard to ignore the elephant, or rather, the big blue monster in the room.

While IF is a charming enough family film, I was left with an overbearing sense of ‘if only’ after the movie.

If only Krasinski had taken more risks with his direction, instead of settling for this sweet but somewhat bland end result. It’s not a bad thing, of course, but you do get the feeling that there is so much more he could have done with his characters, especially the IFs.

If only Reynolds had been given more room to experiment and go a bit wilder with his role. Yes, this is a family movie, so a raunchy, violent Deadpool-esque performance is out of the question, but Reynolds has proven before that he can do so much more with a character if he is given a chance. As it is, Cal just comes across as a grouchy grown-up saddled with an undesirable job, which is weird for a guy who can supposedly see imaginary friends.

Blossom was not very good at playing hide and seek.Blossom was not very good at playing hide and seek.

Last but not least, if only the IFs had more time to shine and develop their backstories more. Individually, the IFs are an interesting bunch, and range from floating bubbles, a talking glass of water, and an invisible one that seems to do nothing but lie on the floor (and is curiously, credited to Brad Pitt).

However, despite the stellar voice cast attached to these IFs (which includes the likes of Awkwafina, Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Amy Schumer, and Jon Stewart among others), none of them truly stand out enough to register as anything other than ‘cute’ or quaint’.

The auditions for Deadpool: The Family Friendly Edition was not going well.The auditions for Deadpool: The Family Friendly Edition was not going well.

The only ones who get enough screentime to develop their characters are the jolly, big and furry Blue (voiced by Steve Carrell), dancing butterfly Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and old-timey teddy bear Lewis (the late Louis Gossett Jr.), and honestly, they were arguably the three safest and blandest of the lot.

That is ultimately the problem with this movie – Krasinski just plays it too safe with his story and characters, and the result is a decent but ultimately unmemorable film that may tick all the right boxes, but could do with some thinking out of the box as well.

The movie may ask you ‘what’s an IF?’, but in the end, you’re left wondering ‘what if?’ instead.

6 10

Summary:

Fun family fare but plays it too safe to be memorable

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Ryan Reynolds , John Krasinksi

   

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