‘IF’ review: Krasinski’s film isn’t playful enough

This Pixar-ish fable by John Krasinski falls a little short of the films it resembles

Udita Jhunjhunwala
First Published19 May 2024
A scene from 'IF'. Photo via AP
A scene from ’IF’. Photo via AP

Bea (Cailey Fleming) is a 12-year-old girl who has lost her mother young and feels the need to fast forward to adulthood even as her father (John Krasinski, who also directs If) is scheduled for a surgery. Temporarily living with her grandmother, in an old-world multi-story connected by wooden stairs, where every home has a gramophone and camcorder, a forlorn Bea begins to see strange creatures. There she spots a ballerina doll called Blossom (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and then she’s overwhelmed to see a giant, furry, purple monster named Blue (voiced by Steve Carrell) both of who live upstairs with neighbour Cal (Ryan Reynolds).

Bea’s ability to see these imaginary creatures gives her an entry to the IF or Imaginary Friends retirement home for once loved and now redundant IFs – from unicorns to teddy bears, an invisible man named Keith, a talking cold glass of water, a flaming marshmallow and blob of green jelly. They rue the loss of their now grown-up human friends who seemingly no longer see their imaginary friends. Bea offers to help out on a new scheme – a kind of matchmaking service to pair IFs with new children, or perhaps rekindle memories to reunite them with their former friends. 

This is the mid-act of the Krasinski helmed 104-minute-long family fantasy drama which delivers little else, bookended by Bea’s own trauma, fears and intense need to remain a child. The relationships are largely underdeveloped, such as Benjamin who befriends Bea in hospital as well as Bea’s interactions with her father. The cast includes top talents such as Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, Sam Rockwell, Jon Stewart and Amy Schumer, many of whom voice characters that make fleeting appearances. 

Fortunately, the schmaltz is side-stepped and Reynolds is on hand to deliver the irreverence. Even when writer Krasinksi’s material is slight, rambling and listless Fleming and Reynolds rev up to make a good team – she as the innocent hopeful child and he as the cynical former clown entrusted with the management of unemployed imaginary friends. 

The imaginary friends will remind you of Pixar favourites, from Toy Story or Monsters Inc. but Krasinski’s film isn’t playful enough in delivering its message, that one needs to tap into and hold on to memories, imagination, lightheartedness and child-like glee. There was a germ of an idea there, but it falls short on inventiveness and playfulness.

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