Published On: Wed, May 15th, 2024
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IF is more concerned with making parents cry than entertaining kids – review | Films | Entertainment

IF promises to be the most saccharine movie of the year that may catch some parents unawares but otherwise fails to capture the imagination.

When The Office star John Krasinski made his first foray into blockbuster filmmaking, it was a pleasant surprise to see him abandon what could have been safe comedy fare for a fresh, if a little meat-headed, sci-fi thriller, A Quiet Place.

With IF, the actor-turned-filmmaker, still best known for bemused looks to the camera as Jim Halpert, delivers another surprise; a twee and syrupy adventure about imaginary friends with very little creativity.

Predictably set in New York City, it follows 12-year-old Bea (played by Cailey Fleming), who develops the ability to see the titular made-up pals after going through a tragic family loss.

Meanwhile, her dad (Krasinski) is awaiting a difficult operation in the hospital, leaving Bea to live with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw).

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She soon meets up with her mysterious neighbour Cal (Ryan Renolds), who reluctantly teams up with her to help a retirement home for imaginary friends find new children to keep company before they disappear.

It’s undeniable that Fleming gives a strong central performance, having already impressed amongst the main cast of recent seasons of The Walking Dead. She’s an incredibly promising young performer and rises to the challenge of IF’s onslaught of poignant and treacly emotional moments, which come fast and furious.

There’s an unbearable weight of importance around the vast majority of IF’s human-focused sequences. Almost every character has a sequence so painstakingly crafted to make the audience weep that they’re in danger of canceling each other out and descending into parody.

Far from Pixar’s gut punches in the opening or last acts, IF wants you to know how terribly sad and touching the whole thing is every second some creepy cartoon critter voiced by a celebrity isn’t on screen performing the same running gag over and over. Perhaps Krasinski thought of this as a “sneak attack” weepy, but all its emotional rug pulls are ham-fistedly telegraphed from the start.

Steve Carrell recycles several of his already tiresome animated characters as Blue, a giant purple furball guaranteed to shift millions of plush toys this year that will be promptly forgotten by the next.

Fleabag breakout Phoebe Waller-Bridge is marginally less irritating as butterfly ballerina Blossom, who also has the most charming design, taking cues from Fleisher’s rubber hose style animations. Moments exploring her backstory are the most effective, but in a film already sickly sweet enough to trigger heart attacks they arrive as a glazed cherry on top of an overwhelming sundae.

It could have possibly served the film better if more focus was granted to just a handful of IFs, as a tedious all-singing, all-dancing segment with cameos galore (Awkwafina, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Maya Rudolph and Amy Schumer, just to name a few, all play various cartoon monstrosities) bludgeons what might have otherwise been a sweet tale of family struggle.

Reynolds, meanwhile, seems completely disinterested in the whole affair having seemingly dropped the majority of his irritating Deadpool charisma he’s carried through most of his roles ever since. Plus, an obvious twist involving his character ensures most moviegoers over the age of 12 will leave the cinema rolling their eyes.

There are certainly kernels of strong ideas here, and it’s a refreshing idea to see imaginary friends come to life. Unfortunately, the more creative visual ideas are used for split-second gags while tedious and overcooked emotional drama takes centre stage.

Younger kids may find some joy in the colourful characters but most of the runtime will simply make them restless, one of the worst crimes a film for hyperactive children can commit.

IF is in cinemas from Friday, May 17.

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