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IF (PG) ★★

“IF” tells the story of Bea (Cailey Fleming), a 12-year-old girl who is spending time with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) while her single father (John Krasinski) prepares for heart surgery. Bea, whose mother died a few years ago due to cancer, insists that she is no longer a child, which is strange and somewhat weird. In reality, Bea appears as sad, lonely, and depressed; shockingly, no scenes include a parent discussion with her teachers at school or a trained psychological mental health professional. We see a silly father attempting to connect with her through imagination. We also view Bea rummaging through her grandmother’s apartment, seeking memories of her childhood to reminisce. She finds drawings of IFs, which stands for imaginary friends, and soon meets them as they begin to appear physically.

Despite boasting a formidable cast including Krasinski, Ryan Reynolds, Fleming, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Steve Carell, and the late Louis Gossett Jr., the film fails to fully capitalize on its potential. While charming and delightful in parts, it ultimately perishes to a dramatic and somewhat tedious very sad narrative.

The dark, downer scenes of Bea’s father in the hospital lying in a bed during most of the film paint a picture of impending death. We see her sadness and terror as she’s already experienced the death of her mother. I’m scratching my head as to why this storyline was created? Isn’t the death of one parent enough in a kid’s movie? And for that matter, why have any parent die? I’d never take my family to a sad film with this major theme. The amazing IFs are artistically great to view; their personalities are different, each with varied stories. It’s such a shame, as they should be enough to carry the film, along with Ryan Reynolds and the other human cast members. I absolutely loved their dazzling dance sequence on stage. I’m hoping for a sequel featuring the IFs, Bea and her father, with no death or sadness.

The IF’s personalities are varied and exciting. Calvin (Ryan Reynolds) is grumpy; he resents his job, although he’s clearly committed to helping forgotten IFs find new child companions. He guides Bea through New York city as they both work together to find matches. Benjamin is a 9-year-old who doesn’t let his troubles get him down; is upbeat and laidback, even though he’s in the hospital with many serious health issues. Louis (Louis Gossett Jr) is an elderly wise teddy bear who was once the leader of the IF program; teaches Bea how to access memories. IF assistant Blossom (Phoebe Mary Waller-Bridge) is calm, level-headed, hopeful, and truthful, she tries to help Bea realize her potential. Blue (Steve Carell), a huge furry monster, is sweet, perseverant, and optimistic. 

The language is also considered unnecessary, especially when Bea’s mentor says, “What the hell?” Also, we don’t need the terms “good God,” “oh my God,” “swear to God, and “for God’s sake. The film should be rated PG-13, yet what teen will watch a movie about IFs? Writer Krasinski has made mistakes with kids before, as in “A Quiet Place: Chapter Two, when we view a child’s leg caught in the metal jaws of a steel bear trap. The agony of a child serves no purpose in the story and is a cop-out; if you’re going to have someone hurt, the adults are the ones who should have been injured. No one wants to see a child bloodied and screaming in agony. He lost my trust as a writer of films with kids years ago, and this one “IF” is atrocious. 

To sum up, “IF has creative ideas concerning imaginary friends, although the main themes of death and impending death overshadow the script. The language needs to be more appropriate for kids. I would not recommend that kids watch this film.

Sarah Knight Adamson © May 17, 2024