IF movie poster

IF

In theaters May 17, 2024

Rated

,

104 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

After a summer dominated by Barbie and Oppenheimer and less than a handful of family blockbusters, 2024 is gearing up to be a summer to remember with sequels, Inside Out 2 and Despicable Me 4, a new Garfield film, and kicking it all off, IF.

“What if I told you that imaginary friends are real? And when children grow up, they’re forgotten.” This intriguing idea is voiced by Cal (Ryan Reynolds) in the wonderfully imaginative new family comedy by John Krasinski. In the film, Bea (Cailey Fleming) joins forces with Cal to create a matchmaking agency for imaginary friends and children. What’s an IF you ask? An Imaginary Friend, of course!

Through a series of flashbacks, viewers are introduced to preschool-aged Bea (Audrey Hoffman) and her parents (Catharine Daddario and John Krasinski). Bea is a lively and creative child who loves belting out Tina Turner songs and creating stories. However, as life takes its toll, she is forced to grow up too quickly. Fast forward a few years, and 12-year-old Bea (now played by Cailey Fleming) has lost her spark. At her grandma’s (Fiona Shaw) house, she finds herself too old for toys and paint supplies, having faced more hardships than a child should. She no longer feels like a kid and resists being treated as one. Everything changes one night when she encounters Blossom (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and follows her home. Curiosity leads Bea into the world of Imaginary Friends (IFs), where she teams up with Cal, Blossom, and Blue (voiced by Steve Carell) to reconnect dozens of forgotten IFs with their now-grown creators. This part-fantasy, part-sentimental adventure film stirs a range of emotions.
Let it be known that this is Cailey Fleming’s movie. Famous for her role as Judith Grimes on AMC’s The Walking Dead, she steals every scene she’s in from far more established actors. And even with multiple seasons on the hit zombie series under her belt, IF will forever be known as her breakout role – one that should likely lead to a very long and successful acting career.

Ryan Reynolds surprisingly takes on a supporting role in the film. Known for his comedic talents, Reynolds plays a more subdued character, serving as a foil for the other actors and IFs. Steve Carell shines as Blue, the lead Imaginary Friend, bringing a heartfelt performance that embodies the longing to connect with a child. Reuniting with John Krasinski for the first time since their days on The Office, Carell showcases a warmer side compared to his well-known animated character, Gru. If the film succeeds, don’t be surprised when you see a surge in Blue plush toys around town.

Krasinski, stepping behind the camera for the first time since The Quiet Place films, performs triple duty as director, writer, and actor. Written as a love letter to his children, he recently described on The Today Show that he would spend “hours in the threshold of a doorway watching them disappear into some magical world that us as parents weren’t invited to.” But, as they grew older, they lost that sense of magic and so during the pandemic, he got to work and dreamt up a “magical world you can go back to anytime you want.” To honor his girls, he even included their imaginary friends and provided a shout to to both girls on the Radio City Music sign.

The film boasts one of the most talented list of voice actors ever including Academy Award nominated actors Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon. The cast is further enriched by Hollywood comedians such as Amy Schumer, Maya Rudolph, Keegan-Michael Key, and many others. Not to forget, the extremely talented wives of Krasinski and Reynolds, Emily Blunt and Blake Lively, respectively. Audiences will be captivated as they try to identify the voices behind each of the vibrant Imaginary Friends.

IF showcases the power of imagination, reminding us of the innocence we once had and how we used our minds to dream up the most fantastical things. However, it may catch parents by surprise. Marketed as a comedy, many of the laughs are unfortunately spoiled in the trailers, leaving the film to progress at a slower pace that might be challenging for young children due to its heavy themes. Yet, when the film hits its stride with an adorable dance number and a heartwarming climax, it truly shines. While somewhat predictable, it is sure to melt hearts and bring tears. The question remains whether the kids will stay engaged until that point.

IF is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Mark Eaton
Mark is an entertainment junkie, spending much of his leisure time watching movies, TV, or listening to any and all genres of music. Most evenings, after finishing a day of work and hanging with his wife and kids, Mark can be found in an eternal battle with his DVR, trying to clear it before another 5-6 hours of shows are recorded the next day. Still reeling from his unpaid gig for the Detroit News where he was fired for being too cruel with his American Idol recaps, Mark is thrilled to be sharing his wicked sense of humor with Movie Reelists.

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