IF movie review: A whimsical experience

17 May,2024 05:34 PM IST |  Los Angeles  |  Johnson Thomas

A thought-provoking mix of live action and animation, this film tells the story of a young girl, Bea (Cailey Fleming), who suffers a great irreparable loss (of her mother) at a young age

IF movie review

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Film: IF (Imaginary Friends)
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.
Director: John Krasinski
Rating: 3/5
Runtime: 104 min

A thought-provoking mix of live action and animation, this film tells the story of a young girl, Bea (Cailey Fleming), who suffers a great irreparable loss (of her mother) at a young age.

We see that 12-year old Bea and her father (John Krasinski) have subsequently returned to New York and Bea is expected to stay with her Grandmother (Fiona Shaw) in her Brooklyn apartment, while dad is in hospital having to undergo some medical procedure.

Bea appears to have developed her own coping mechanism to deal with her grief and loneliness. She begins to see Imaginary Friends. Fortunately, the former clown Cal (Ryan Reynolds) who lives upstairs is also dealing with the same kind of hallucination. He even knows what's going on. They are seeing imaginary friends who have been left behind as their real-life friends have grown up. In order to save these ‘IFs' from extinction Cal and Bea come up with a plan to reunite them with their former human friends.

The themes of coping with grief and loss as a child, losing your imagination as an adult and thoughts about mortality make the narrative a little heavy. Krasinski who has written and directed this movie, tries to make the experience light enough with several dabs at magic, humor and light-weight amusement. The characters are colorful and some of the jokes manage to score laughs.

The movie takes a bit of time to come into its own though. The kids might get restive because other than the imaginary friends there's little here to get them completely ensnared. Even for the adults the narrative may seem a bit confusing because it's only when the twist occurs ( almost 90 min into the film) that all the holes in the story appear to get filled up. The themes are largely adult even though we see a child in the midst of them. There are of course bits of subject matter that would definitely appeal to children.

The movie makes magic realism it's forte offering up a seamless blend of live-action and animation with realistic locations. The colorful animated characters are endearing too - giant Blue (Steve Carell), chirpy Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) & Lewis (Louis Gossett Jr.) who set up the retirement home for abandoned ‘IFs,' are some of the characters that reach out and touch you. Then there is a unicorn , a pink alligator, a detective shadow, and even an invisible Keith, who are equally quirky, odd, and adorable. The extensive A list voice cast includes Emily Blunt, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, and Blake Lively to name just a few of the vocal cameos.

The narrative does get a little slow and sentimental and the pace lags while the music score tries to charge-up the emotions.

The screenplay takes the slow approach to making the experience meaningful. Animation, character design, color distinctiveness, Cinematography and CGI are excellent. The narrative takes a melodramatic turn once the big reveal is done. But even so, while scoring heavy-duty emotion towards the end, it doesn't make for complete satisfaction.

While the movie may not be compelling as an experience, it does invoke some thought and provokes emotional responses that have remained hidden for want of facilitation. This film has effective strategies within that could help train students regarding the psycho-social aspects of childhood. Some of the kids might be happy with the imaginative storyline, vibrant, colorful characters and an eventual happy ending while the adults might get involved in the exploration of adult and child psychology. Overall, this film is an original experience with some gratifying humor and could even get you to shed a few tears. The film is life affirming and just a little too cute to be soulfully entertaining though.

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