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IF

Updated: Jun 9

John Krasinski's family-friendly fare plays it too safe



John Krasinski was allowed to direct pretty much whatever he wanted after delivering two surprise hits with A Quiet Place (2018) and A Quiet Place: Part Two (2020). His pivot from these horror films to the family-friendly IF (2024) while seemingly jarring carries a throughline of exploring families.

 

IF (an acronym for Imaginary Friend) follows the serious twelve-year-old Bea (Cailey Fleming) who is suddenly able to see fantastical imaginary friends in New York City streets. Moving in with her grandma (Fiona Shaw) in Brooklyn Heights, while her father (Krasinski) is in the hospital for heart surgery, Bea falls in with her adult neighbor Cal (Ryan Reynolds). Cal can also see IFs, like the big purple Blue (Steve Carell) or the cartoon ballerina Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Cal has been helping IFs, forgotten by growing kids, find a new purpose, a challenge that Bea takes on as well.

 

Krasinski is credited as the sole writer for IF, and one senses a desire to create an expansive and magical world for children to take in awe. IF takes on a familiar structure of “child discovering a hidden world” borrowing from “The Chronicles of Narnia,” Toy Story (1996), and more than one Christmas movie. We follow Bea, who has seemingly matured out of childlike things, as she rediscovers the magical things of being a kid. Krasinski doesn’t stray far from the echoes of his influence and these predictable and familiar beats prove both comforting and constraining. Krasinski mostly plays it too safe with humor and plot, letting the world of imaginary friends stay shallowly explored. There are intriguing side-characters and narrative beats opened up, but largely abandoned as Krasinski restrains himself towards following basic beats and fable-like morals instead, from side-character Benjamin (Alan Kim) a kid Bea meets at the hospital, to the IF retirement home logistics.

 

That’s not to say that IF is a cookie-cutter film, there is a nostalgia of live-action family films that is apparent in Krasinski’s direction and editing choices. There are also touching scenes, the highlight of IF regarding the non-verbal connection adult characters have when rediscovering their inner child. These moments show a more complex and intriguing way that IF had to explore its central theme, but that it largely leaves to the side in favor of safer prat falls.

 

Fleming is an incredibly talented child actress, having already held her own as Judith in the last The Walking Dead (2010-2022) seasons. She capably tracks the arc of teenager to child with a convincing incrementalism. Reynolds seems somewhat more uncomfortable as he is clearly held back from improvising too much and is forced to be the “reluctant guide” to Bea, cutting his loose cannon comedic talent as a result. Krasinski also brings a talented array of Hollywood friends also including the likes of Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Sam Rockwell, Amy Schumer, and Bradley Cooper. This proves a fun exercise for adults, prodded to guess which famous actor is voicing a particular CGI IF, but also raises the query of why many of these Oscar-winners are only given one or two lines.

 

IF has bountiful resources and talent around it, yet a restraint and necessity to color within the lines keeps the film from breaking out into the creative and original fable it had the potential of being.

6.9/10

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About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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