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Imaginative and kid-friendly

Imaginative and kid-friendly

Chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming keeps the interest going.

Film: IF (Imaginary Friends)

Director: John Krasinski

Cast: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Catherine Daddario, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Richard Jenkins, Awkwafina, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Blake Lively, Louis Gossett Jr.

Johnson Thomas

Written and directed by John Krasinski following the horror-thriller franchise ‘A Quiet Place’, this effort may come as a surprise because it’s really different from those films.

The narrative gets off to a brisk start and plunges into montage moments with a young Bea (Audrey Hoffman) and her parents (John Krasinski and Catharine Daddario) spending time together. We then get to know that 12-year-old Bea (Cailey Fleming) has lost her mother and now has to live with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) in an apartment building, while her father undergoes an operation. Soon we see Bea interacting with two Imaginary Friends (IFs) — Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), an anthropomorphic butterfly, and Blue (Steve Carell), a purple furry creature. They apparently live upstairs with Cal (Ryan Reynolds), who appears to have a similar ability as Bea. She also meets the other ‘IFs’ when Cal takes her to a rundown fun fair which happens to be a retirement home for the abandoned ‘IFs’ under the supervision of an old teddy bear, Lewis (Louis Gossett Jr.).

While ‘IF’ hypothesises an imaginative way of coping with grief, the resultant process doesn’t quite make it so compelling. Magical moments meant to captivate the audience’s imagination are brief and few. But vivid imagination soon gives way to heavy-duty sentimentality. Michael Giacchino’s score tries to manipulate emotions and Krasinski’s storytelling aims for the melodrama, but the effect is muted. There are grin-inducing moments and some good laughs, though.

The story itself is left under- cooked. We don’t get to know why Bea’s mother passed away or what illness her father suffers from. For almost 90 minutes of the runtime, we keep questioning what kind of experiment this was. We don’t get to understand the nitty-gritty of the turbulence Bea is going through. Instead, we see a parallel story about Imaginary Friends. Krasinski is obviously drawing parallels between the two worlds, but the link meant to sync the two worlds appears to be missing.

Bea is obviously emotionally crippled by the big changes happening in her life. But we never get to experience these. For most of the runtime, we see the discovery of Cal and the ‘IFs’ and Bea joining forces with them so Bea’s inner turmoil is never fleshed out. The late-in-coming reveal does little to elevate the experience, other than causing some copious tear-jerking moments for the easily susceptible.

The ending might make you want to reinterpret what you saw, but it comes too late to be compelling. For the twist to make an impact, the suspense required was missing. As the idea here is to tap into your inner child, the target demographic also appears questionable. Kids are sure to enjoy the Imaginary Friends’ parts though.

The conceptually interesting movie borders on being whimsy. However, the seamless CGI, Fiona Shaw’s embracing turn as Bea’s grandmother, Steve Carell’s voicing of clumsy Blue, A-list actors lending voices to the ‘IFs’ and the palpable chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming keep the interest going.