Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Film Review

‘IF’ has a little something for everyone


John Krasinski’s “IF” is a heartwarming comedy that showcases his versatility as a director, especially considering his successful foray into horror with “A Quiet Place” and its sequel. This time, Krasinski crafts a narrative that dives into the magical world of imaginary friends. The result is a delightfully fun flick that brims with humor, emotion and a palpable sense of child-like wonder.

The story centers on young Bea (Cailey Fleming), who is grappling with significant emotional challenges. After losing her mother and facing the potential loss of her father, who is in the hospital for surgery, Bea finds herself in a vulnerable state. She moves in with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) and soon discovers a hidden world of imaginary friends (IFs), thanks to her encounters with Cal (Ryan Reynolds), her grandmother’s upstairs neighbor.

When Bea learns that Cal is responsible for helping these IFs find new children to bond with since their original companions have grown up, she is thrown into a whirlwind adventure where she assists the IFs, including a large purple fluffball named Blue (Steve Carell), a butterfly-like ballerina named Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and a teddy bear named Lewis (Louis Gossett Jr.). Each character brings a unique charm and personality to the story, making the fantastical elements feel grounded and relatable.

The film’s visual style draws inspiration from beloved family classics like “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.,” creating a world that is both visually stunning and emotionally resonant. The production design enhances the movie’s whimsical atmosphere, giving it a timeless, slightly vintage feel that will appeal to both children and adults.

Cailey Fleming shines as Bea, delivering a performance that is thoroughly heartfelt. She captures the innocence and resilience of her character, making her journey through grief and fear both relatable and inspiring. Ryan Reynolds, known for his quick wit and humor, brings a different but equally compelling energy to his role as Cal. Although it is initially strange to see Reynolds not in the center of attention, his performance quickly becomes a highlight of the film, providing both comic relief and emotional depth.

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One of the film’s strongest aspects is its voice cast, which features an impressive array of talent. Alongside Carell, Waller-Bridge, and Gossett Jr., the movie includes voice contributions from Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Jon Stewart, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph and many more.

One of the film’s most poignant scenes involves a conversation between Bea and an IF about the nature of belief and the importance of holding onto one’s inner child. This theme is woven throughout the movie, serving as a reminder of the power of imagination and the resilience of the human spirit. The movie’s score beautifully complements these moments, enhancing the emotional depth and leaving a lasting impression on the audience.

“IF” also benefits from its ability to evoke a sense of nostalgia. The whimsical settings and imaginative adventures are reminiscent of childhood fantasies, making adult viewers feel like kids again.

Despite its many strengths, “IF” is not without its flaws. The ambitious narrative, filled with numerous characters and fantastical concepts, sometimes struggles to connect all the dots. This can leave the story feeling somewhat disjointed, with certain plot points and character arcs seemingly forgotten. For example, Bea’s relationship with her deceased mother and ailing father is touched upon but not deeply explored. Similarly, the journey of the IFs and their quest to find new children is compelling but occasionally feels rushed or incomplete. 

Additionally, while the film’s emotional moments are genuine and touching, there are times when the script feels like it is forcing these moments prematurely. The intention is clear, but the execution occasionally falls short, resulting in scenes that feel more contrived than naturally moving. This is particularly evident in the climax, where the emotional payoff does not entirely match the buildup.

Despite these shortcomings, “IF” ultimately succeeds due to its infectious spirit and heartfelt message. The movie’s celebration of imagination, resilience and the enduring power of childhood wonder is both entertaining and touching. The film reminds us that age is just a number and that the magic of imagination can be a powerful force in overcoming life’s challenges. ♦

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Summer Stir - June 2024