IF (2024)

While John Krasinski’s “IF” doesn’t exactly break new ground, nor re-invent the wheel, what he lacks in originality, he makes up for with oodles of charm. John Krasinski has emerged as a very good multi-faceted director, and with “IF” he delivers on a very heartwarming, often entertaining tale about the hardships of growing up and having to say goodbye to certain things that made us happy. “IF” suffers from not having a completely fleshed out idea (it also leaves a sub-plot unresolved), but I loved it mainly for its warmth, good humor, and wholesomeness.

Forced to live with her grandmother after her father falls ill, young Bea discovers that she can see everyone’s imaginary friends — and soon decides, with the help of imaginary friends caretaker Cal, what she does with that superpower — as she embarks on a magical adventure to reconnect forgotten IFs with their kids.

“IF” owes a lot of debt to fare like “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,” and “My Neighbor Totoro” as Krasinski and co. almost seem to channel Hayao Miyazaki’s themes of innocence lost frequently. “IF” places a lot of emotional stakes but has enough confidence in its audience to understand the emotional weight of what protagonist Bea is enduring. The whole idea of having to grow up and face reality while trying to retain that sense of magic is a universal overtone that I think most audiences will be able to relate to.

Everyone in “IF” are just great (Krasinski even sneaks in a few celebrity pals to play various roles), from Steve Carell as the inept furball Blue, Ryan Reynolds as IF caretaker Cal, to Cailey Fleming as Bea. Fleming has enough dramatic chops to carry the movie on her shoulders, often being allowed the best moments in the film. Reynolds is surprisingly subdued as the cynical but likable Cal, all the while Bea is tasked with connecting with the past imaginary friends and giving them new lives.

Fleming keeps the movie above water with her enthusiasm, and convincing turn as a girl stuck between holding on to the past, and preparing for the future. All in all, the IF world is interesting as the animators mix in various styles of animation including stop motion, CGI, and hand drawn to help create this unique and diverse world of imaginary friends. What’s never really explored is the whole idea of IF’s. Are they immortal? Do they have a lifespan? Can they be imagined in any size? Do they disappear if they’re not adopted or are forgotten? Are there other people out there like Bea? And what exactly was ailing Bea’s dad? Did he have cancer? Was he receiving a heart transplant?

I don’t know if “IF” is what I’d call a potential classic, but as far as entertaining fantasy fare with a heart, it won me over.