IF review: Warming, adventurous, but a little hollow

Jessica Cullen
Steve Carrell as Blue, a large purple furry creature in IF

John Krasinski’s IF is a warm but slightly hollow tale of imaginary friends and where they go once we’re done with them.

After proving himself to be a directorial force worthy of attention with A Quiet Place Part I and II, Krasinski has turned his focus to a fantasy adventure constructed from mild family drama and an army of celebrity pipes.

IF follows Bea (Cailey Fleming), a girl who occupies herself with the rehoming of abandoned imaginary friends (“IFs”) while her father awaits surgery in hospital.

The connective tissue of the new movie can already be gleaned from the synopsis alone. Bea is a child who insists that she’s not, and following the death of her mother and her father’s health scare, it’s a fair self-assessment. But her fun-loving and optimistic dad (Krasinski) encourages her to go out and find the fun in life. Enter: Cal (Ryan Reynolds) and his bumbling band of animated dependents.

John Krasinski proves himself as a director (again)

The fantasy fare is a shift in style for the director-star following his horror duology (soon to be a trilogy, sans Krasinski), but it’s a fitting one. By now, he’s proved himself to be a perfectly capable creative, though IF does suggest that he’s a better director than he is a writer.

There’s life both in front of and behind the camera in IF, which propels several emotional beats that all land fairly well, if not a little too frequently.

Krasinski’s subject of choice is family and how it holds up under stressful circumstances — it’s no coincidence that both A Quiet Place and IF are seen through the eyes of a young girl. Though IF’s Bea doesn’t always serve as a proactive or gutsy enough protagonist, and as such, she’s lost under the bombastic nature of the imaginary friends in question.

The IFs steal the show

Ryan Reynolds plays Cal, a cynical and exhausted caretaker for the imaginary friends, who’s been working and failing endlessly to find them new homes. It’s literally nothing new for Reynolds, who plays to his same strengths as seen throughout all his movies. He’s quick, has a punchy delivery, and showcases a physical comedy that sells his interactions with the imaginary figures. But ultimately, he’s not given much to do.

As for the imaginary friends themselves, headlined by the oversized Blue (Steve Carell) and ballerina-butterfly Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), they are charismatic at best, and completely forgettable at worst. The scale of the program is never really clarified, since we only ever see a rotation of the same ten or so IFs (voiced by the likes of George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, and Emily Blunt), which doesn’t allow audiences to really grow attached to many of them, nor feel true stakes at the number Cal and Bea have to deal with.

Steve Carrell easily steals the show as Blue, whose over-excitement and sheer joy at anything and everything picks up the slacking energy. (Clearly, his years of experience in the booth voicing Despicable Me’s Gru is not wasted.)

A family drama with no drama

A bitterly emotional, A-Monster-Calls-style exploration of family trauma this is not. While IF does highlight Bea’s off-kilter circumstances following the death of her mother and her father’s seemingly forever-impending heart surgery, it never really allows the situation to have any bite.

Ryan Reynolds as Cal in IF, standing next to Blue

The film neither stands as a mature exploration of fear and grief (though it tries to touch on it), nor as a statement on the importance of maintaining childhood beliefs. Bea doesn’t ever really reach the levels of vulnerability that are needed to hammer home whatever point IF is trying to make.

What’s more, the through line between both sides of the story is never fully drawn, making you wonder what kind of movie this is trying to be. Kids won’t notice this, but substance-seeking parents might.

Where IF does achieve something magical is in Michael Giacchino’s score, which is uplifting when it needs to be and mellows out the mood when the film is desperately trying to get there. It elicits emotion where the script and the cast cannot. The film feels cozy, cleverly making use of the New York City brownstone setting, which blesses everything with a mahogany-warm feel.

IF verdict: 3/5

This is another successful notch in Krasinski’s directing belt, and maintains that he has an understanding of humanity and family, even if this isn’t quite brought together by the story.

IF is a little like an imaginary friend in itself: it’s fantastical, fun to look at, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing really there for anyone seeking more.

IF releases in theaters on Friday, May 17, 2024. For more, check out all the best new movies to watch on streaming this month, and keep note of all the best animated movies.

About The Author

Jessica Cullen is a TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's previously written for The Digital Fix, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Slate and more. Aside from being the residential Yellowstone expert, she also loves Westerns, '90s action movies, and true crime. You can email her here: jessica.cullen@dexerto.com.