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Movie Review: 'IF' Starring Ryan Reynolds

IF fails to capitalize on cute idea and a terrific young star.

By Sean PatrickPublished about a month ago 5 min read

If (2024)

Directed by John Krasinski

Written by John Krasinski

Starring Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller Bridge

Release Date May 17th, 2024

Published May 17th, 2024

IF is a little bizarre, a little... off. It's a kids movie that has its heart in the right place but is mixed up in the execution. The film stars Cailey Fleming as Bea. Having lost her mother to cancer when she was younger, 12 year old Bea has tried to force herself to grow up so she can take care of her dad, played by John Krasinski. Dad is about to have a serious heart surgery, as we join the story, and Bea has vowed to have no fun while her dad is in the hospital, much to his dismay. Dad is a free spirited goofball who tries to encourage his daughter to bring back the huge imagination that led her to be quite a storyteller before her mom died.

Dad's prodding may not be able to get Bea imagining again but, a return to her childhood home might. While dad is hospitalized, Bea is living with her grandmother, Margaret (Fiona Shaw), who happens to be living in the same apartment that Bea grew up in. The place is filled with memories that Bea struggles with until fate intervenes. Fate comes in the form of Blossom (Phoebe Waller Bridge), a being who looks like a 1930s cartoon character. Spotting Blossom in her apartment building, Bea follows her. This leads to an attic apartment where a cranky dude tells her to go away.

The cranky guy is Cal (Ryan Reynolds) and soon, we will learn that Cal has the most unique job ever. Cal has taken it upon himself to care for all the imaginary friends that kids have forgotten over the years. In the universe of IF, growing up means forgetting about your imaginary friends. But, those imaginary friends never go away. They are always around, you just can't see them anymore. It's a heartbreaking and poignant notion. The imaginary friends struggle to find a place in a world where they are no longer seen. That's where Cal comes in with his IF nursing home tucked inside an amusement park.

It's a cute and wholesome idea. But, the execution wonky. The film appears to be telling the story of a little girl discovering what it is like to be a little girl again in the wake of a terrible loss and the fear of another. But, then writer-director John Krasinski shifts the perspective to have Bea reawakening the child inside of Ryan Reynolds' Cal who has become a bit stale and cranky. His lack of imagination has left his friends living the lives of elderly people in a drab nursing home. Then he brings Bea in and she imagines a dynamic place where everyone can live their dreams.

In a baffling sequence, Bea livens up the IF nursing home with a rousing performance of Tina Turner's You Better Be Good to Me. You know, that song that every 12 year old girl is always choreographing elaborate dance performances to? Better be Good to Me by Tina Turner? Please understand, I love and revere Ms. Tina Turner, but if there is a 12 year old on the planet that is a fan of her late period turn to the adult contemporary genre, I will eat my hat. It's a good song but it's absurd to think that anyone under the age of 40 is listening to Better Be Good to Me.

But, truly, the song and dance isn't the problem, it's the perspective. The movie sets up a story about a little girl who is rediscovering her imagination. This scene arrives at a point where Bea is still trying to understand a reality where she can see Imaginary Friends. She's also still terrified that she is losing her dad. For the movie to suddenly become about her reawakening Cal's imagination and love for life is a bizarre and incongruous choice. It takes the personal journey of a little girl and reframes it around a cranky adult.

Why? Why make that choice? It doesn't matter, this happens maybe halfway inton the movie and then another story starts. The film then shifts gears to having Bea start helping at the nursing home. She comes up with an idea for connecting the retired IF's with new kids but that plan fails. Then, Bea decides that she should reunite the IF's with their now grown up kids. Suddenly, the movie is about giving adults back their imagination and that's a cute idea but it comes at the expense of telling Bea's story which is resolved with relative ease as she reconnects with her IF and other things happen that I guess are spoilers that I am sure you've already figured out just reading this review.

I get what John Krasinski is going for here. He has a few ideas and a few scenes that are effective, but the framing is off. We spend all of this time on Bea's back story and her journey and when the movie becomes about IF's and the kids who forgot them and we lose track of Bea and the movie just becomes a series of scenes instead of a coherent narrative. It comes at the expense of young Cailey Fleming who is quite good here. She's great at being a little adult and she's sweet and sympathetic as she regains a bit of her childhood. If the movie had stuck with her, it would be a better movie.

It occurs to me now, as I am moving to end this review, that I haven't even mentioned Steve Carell. Carell plays the voice of Blue, a giant purple fluff ball monster. His thing is that he sneezes all the time. The ad campaign and trailers for IF make it appear that he's the other star of the movie. You'd expect that Blue and Bea have a story that goes hand in hand. You would be wrong about that. Blue is very much part of an ensemble of celebrity voices for IFs that includes Bradley Cooper, Awkwafina, George Clooney and Matt Damon. Blue's story could be cut from the movie and nothing would be lost, aside from the merchandising of giant purple plush dolls.

In the end, IF is a collection of ideas in search of a story. It has disparate strands of story but no coherence. It's cute and the characters are sweet and thoughtful but, it doesn't work as a movie. As a weekly series perhaps, with Bea and Cal reuniting IF's with grown up kids, there is perhaps something there. As a movie, it's all over the place. It's sloppy. Will kids like it? Maybe, it's certainly not offensive and the characters are cute enough. There are some laughs here and there. Kids will probably like it and then immediately forget it because it carries no resonant qualities.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and more than 2000 movie reviews at Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!


About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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