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REVIEW – John Krasinski’s ‘IF’ Wants Audiences to Feel, Not Think

IF VFX 037R min

John Krasinksi’s latest film from Paramount Pictures, IF, is an emotional journey that explores what we leave behind when we grow up. Written and directed by Krasinksi, IF features an incredible cast, starring Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming, and the voices of Steve Carrell, Louis Gossett Jr., Awkwafina, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Maya Rudolph and more.

Emotions are at the core of this youthful fantasy adventure, which reminds us to tap into that childlike wonder that we had before the burdens of the real world weighed us down. While the film is emotionally satisfying, the story is held back by a muddled first act and a predictable conclusion. Still, the journey is worth the experience, and Fleming is a rising star who shines throughout the film.

IF premieres May 17, 2024 in theaters. Light spoilers below.

IF Theatrical Poster
IF Theatrical Poster

Official Synopsis

From writer and director John Krasinski, IF is about a girl who discovers that she can see everyone’s imaginary friends — and what she does with that superpower — as she embarks on a magical adventure to reconnect forgotten IFs with their kids. IF stars Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, and the voices of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr. and Steve Carell alongside many more as the wonderfully unique characters that reflect the incredible power of a child’s imagination.

REVIEW – Hooked on a Feeling

John Krasinski is firmly in the dad era of his career and IF feels like a film made specifically for his daughters. As a girl dad myself, I can completely relate. IF stars Cailey Fleming as Bea, a 12-year-old who is dealing with the loss of her mother to cancer (Fleming was actually 15-years old when IF began production). Krasinski plays Bea’s father, who is now facing a health scare of his own. This forces Bea to struggle with the harsh reality of potentially losing both of her parents within just a few years. It’s a situation that no child should have to consider.

Fleming’s Bea is the central character of the film. Although Ryan Reynolds might be considered the star because he has the bigger name, make no mistake, this is Fleming’s film. Fleming finds the perfect balance between playing a strong and mature young tween, forced to grow up fast due to life’s circumstances, and a vulnerable young girl who still needs to feel safe. She’s irresistibly charming in every scene, and carries the emotional weight in a film full of wacky imaginary friends. Without Fleming, IF would not have worked.

L-R, George Clooney (Spaceman), Amy Schumer (Gummy Bear), Emily Blunt (Unicorn), Steve Carell (Blue), Flower, Cailey Fleming (Bea), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Blossom), Richard Jenkins (Art Teacher) and Maya Rudolph (Ally) star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”
L-R, George Clooney (Spaceman), Amy Schumer (Gummy Bear), Emily Blunt (Unicorn), Steve Carell (Blue), Flower, Cailey Fleming (Bea), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Blossom), Richard Jenkins (Art Teacher) and Maya Rudolph (Ally) star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”

Shockingly, at least for me, Reynolds feels miscast in the role opposite Fleming. While the ultra likable Reynolds is usually the one who brings ample doses of charm and humor, he’s almost too ruggedly dashing for what his character, Cal, requires. Reynolds is more of a charismatic action hero with a wry smile (as we’ll see later this summer), and while he can of course play a variety of roles, he didn’t exude the warmth and silliness that this character required. Ironically, the better fit for Cal was probably right there under their noses, in the form of Steve Carrell, who instead voices the giant furry purple creature named…Blue.

Carrell and the rest of the all-star voice cast are sure to be one of the primary draws for audiences. However, they also represent one of the film’s biggest disappointments. In order to give the luminary voice cast their moments, the film spends extra time on their imaginary characters, at the expense of the overall story that needed more development.

As a result, the beginning of the film is unnecessarily confusing, the supporting characters lack any depth, and the conclusion of the story is egregiously predictable. There is a secret about the story that the film tries to hide from the beginning, and in trying to do so, fails to properly establish the world or its internal rules. Krasinski seems to have wanted to go for a The Sixth Sense level twist, but the execution falls short because even the most inexperienced viewer will be able to see it coming. Perhaps more frustrating is that the mechanics of the imaginary characters, and their dynamic with Bea, are unclear and inconsistent. Why is it Bea who can see the imaginary friends? Why is there a time in the film when she suddenly can’t? And then later she can again? It’s best not to think about it too deeply. As a result, Bea’s mission is less satisfying.

Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming star in Paramount Pictures' "IF."
Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”

Despite the film’s shortcomings, it is likely to resonate with many, especially parents. If Maya Angelou’s legendary quote is true, and “people will never forget how you made them feel,” then IF is ultimately a success. Underdeveloped characters and a predictable plot doesn’t change the fact that the film’s message hits you right in the heart. Fleming is able to navigate a film that requires her to interact primarily with CGI characters with a sincerity that helps the audience believe in them as well.

The film’s overall message is also appreciated. Reminiscent of Toy Story and Monsters, Inc., the film is a call for all of us to reconnect with the innocence that too many of us have lost. Bea is a 12-year-old who has suffered a major loss and is now on the precipice of adulthood. As audiences go on this journey with her, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of hope that she will be okay. And we all need to be okay.

RATING – 3/5 Pocky

Pocky Rating 3

Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture.  He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.

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