‘IF’ Movie Review: The Most Imaginary Fun You Can Have!

John Krasinski’s new kids’ comedy, ‘If,’ seems to have all the right ingredients for a family hit. It’s got sentimentality, a focus on the power of a child’s imagination, and a touch of tragedy following a girl’s journey. Add to that an expensive blend of live-action and animation and an all-star voice cast, including George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, Bradley Cooper, Maya Rudolph, and Krasinski’s wife, Emily Blunt, voicing a group of forgotten Imaginary Friends (Ifs).

On paper, Krasinski’s first venture into children’s films as a writer-director ticks all the boxes, though, in practice, it doesn’t quite capture the magic of classics like ‘Toy Story 3’ or ‘Paddington 2.’

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IF Movie Review
Image Courtesy: Deadline

The film revolves around Bea, a girl who, amid family turmoil, suddenly gains the ability to see everyone’s former imaginary friends. While ‘If’ is packed with cartoonish antics for kids, it also offers something for nostalgic adults. The idea of a retirement home for Ifs, who long for their grown-up human friends and hope to find new child playmates, is quite touching.

Twelve-year-old Bea, played by Cailey Fleming, asserts she’s too old for games, adding to the film’s charm. The story begins with mock camcorder footage of happier times in Bea’s Brooklyn apartment, depicting a cheerful family of three before her mother’s battle with cancer.

IF Movie Review
Image Courtesy: Digital Spy

Returning to New York after some time away, Bea’s father (Krasinski, in a Jim Halpert-esque role) is back in the hospital for heart surgery, leaving Bea with minimal supervision from her dad’s kind nurse (Liza Colón-Zayas) and her sweet but clueless grandmother (Fiona Shaw). Bea meets Cal (Ryan Reynolds), who runs an IF placement agency out of a treasure-filled emporium with Blue, a character voiced by Steve Carell, and Blossom, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Initially sceptical of the Ifs, Bea is moved by their sincere plight, especially after visiting their retirement home beneath Coney Island. She then joins the agency’s mission to reconnect forgotten Ifs with the inner children of stressed adults in New York.

IF Movie Review
Image Courtesy: IMDb

Krasinski, a proven filmmaker, manages to navigate the somewhat convoluted plot with style, evoking beloved family movies. The film has echoes of Steve Carell’s voice work in ‘Despicable Me,’ the nostalgic magic of Roald Dahl stories, and the childhood nostalgia of the ‘Toy Story’ series.

Despite being set in modern-day Brooklyn Heights, ‘If’ feels retro, reminiscent of a time when New Yorkers decorated with antique record players and ornate lamps, and kids roamed unsupervised. Bea, born in the 2010s, uses a camcorder rather than a smartphone, which adds to the nostalgic feel.

IF Movie Review
Image Courtesy: IMDb

‘If’ has a timeless quality, despite some inconsistencies. The first half drags a bit, but a CGI-heavy sequence where Bea redecorates the Memory Lane retirement home through creativity brings energy back to the film. The Imaginary Friends – including a unicorn, a green blob, a pink alligator, a talking ice cup, and an invisible character named Keith – shine in these moments.

While the film is marketed as a comedy, it’s light on laughs, focusing instead on heartfelt moments. By the end, it settles into a touching message about remembering love and playfulness as you grow up. Despite its bells and whistles, ‘If’ manages to remind viewers of their inner child, even if just for a little while.