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Movie Review: IF brings heart and laughter in John Krasinski’s film

Fri 24 May 2024    
The Brew Rating: 3.5/5
The Brew News Team | 2 min read

The film, Imaginary Friends ‘IF’, with its heart in the right place, is a far change from the often-formulaic family films, and its earnestness, even when it falters, is endearing

Director:  John Krasinski
Cast: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., Alan Kin, Liza Colon-Zayas, Steve Carell

John Krasinski’s latest directorial venture, IF, is an ambitious blend of live-action and animation that aims to entertain and tug at the heartstrings. 

Despite its meandering narrative, it effectively conveys that, “All kids need their imaginary friends even when they grow up,” and “Memories live forever… you just close your eyes, and they all come rushing back.”

The film centers on Elizabeth, aka Bea, a young girl played with emotional depth by Cailey Fleming. Having lost her mother to cancer and now facing the possibility of losing her father (Krasinski) to heart surgery, Bea’s life is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Temporarily staying with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) in Brooklyn Heights, Bea encounters a world of imaginary friends (IFs), who are saddened by their abandonment as children grow up. This concept draws inevitable comparisons to Pixar’s Toy Story, yet IF strives to carve out its unique niche.

A particularly endearing aspect of the film is its imaginative portrayal of the IFs, voiced by an impressive roster of Hollywood talent. Among them are the butterfly-like Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and the lovable, albeit color-blind named, Blue (Steve Carell). These characters introduce Bea to the whimsical retirement home for IFs in Coney Island, complete with activities like group therapy and water aerobics, presided over by an elderly teddy bear, Lewis (the late Louis Gossett Jr.).

The plot weaves in the cranky upstairs neighbour, Cal (Ryan Reynolds), who becomes Bea’s guide to their IFs world, highlighting the film’s theme of rediscovery and reconnection. Together, they aim to help the IFs reunite with their now-grown childhood friends, providing a touching subplot that showcases Reynolds’ ability to balance comedy with heartfelt moments.

Also read: Movie Review: Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes impresses visually but lacks emotional depth

Krasinski’s care in crafting IF is evident in the film’s visual and auditory elements. From the charming hand-painted Paramount logo at the opening to Janusz Kaminski’s warm cinematography and Michael Giacchino’s evocative score, the film is a feast for the senses. The voice performances are uniformly excellent, with each actor bringing a unique flavour to their animated counterpart. However, despite the stellar cast, many characters appear too briefly to leave a lasting impact.

The film’s whimsical fantasy sequences are creative highlights. Yet, the film’s uneven tone and pacing issues often undermine these moments of brilliance.

The film’s significant challenge is its attempt to balance humour and sentiment. While the animated antics of the IFs provide ample comedic moments, some slapstick scenes feel generic and fail to leave a memorable mark. Conversely, when the film ventures into deeper emotional territory, such as Bea’s journey to help Blue reconnect with his former friend (Bobby Moynihan) or the subplot involving a hospital-bound boy (Alan Kim), it occasionally strains under the weight of its ambitions.

Overall, the film, with its heart in the right place, is a far change from the often-formulaic family films, and its earnestness, even when it falters, is endearing.

(This article is published under a mutual content partnership arrangement between The Brew News and The Free Press Journal)

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