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IF Review: A Children’s Movie That’s Surprisingly Emotional For Adults

I went into IF expecting just another conventional movie for kids with a chuckle or giggle here and there, but what I wasn’t expecting was for me to find myself crying at the end of this movie. The IF movie may look like it’s catered just for children but there’s something there for adults too, despite being an overall flawed package that could have been a lot better if director and writer John Krasinski had put more focus in the right places.

Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends Meets Inside Out

Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”

If you think the concept and premise of IF sounds familiar, you’re not alone. For those millennials who grew up as kids in the 2000s, they’ll probably remember a little animated series on Cartoon Network titled Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends (which ran from 2004 to 2009). The premise of IF is that the human characters are trying to help abandoned imaginary friends AKA IFs, which is reminiscent of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends.

There’s not much to the plot and narrative of IF, which is simple enough for even kids to understand. However, the movie is a surprising emotionally resonant one for adults like myself, who grew up with passion and positivity but have since found themselves gradually getting more disillusioned, cynical and weary of life. The main protagonist of IF is Bea (Cailey Fleming) and she struggles with grief, negatively processing it by shutting out the world around her and feeling like she has to act like she’s not a kid anymore. Ryan Reynolds’ character, Cal, also suffers from a similar problem, as he has grown disillusioned, cynical and weary. Throughout the movie, they learn to overcome all that while helping the IFs, which makes for some effectively powerful emotional beats and some wholesome moments.

Cailey Fleming and BLUE star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”

As for the IFs themselves, their situation and plight feel a lot like Bing Bong from Pixar’s Inside Out, so you can surmise what I mean by that reference (I don’t want to spoil the details). The IF movie is best when it explores all these emotions and struggles. It’s all elevated further by the highlight of the movie, which is the incredible performance by 17-year-old Cailey Fleming as the protagonist, Bea. This will likely be her breakout role, so viewers can probably look forward to seeing more of the talented young actress in the future. IF also has a massive ensemble cast when it comes to the voices of the IFs. The two main IFs are Steve Carell’s Blue and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Blossom, but there are many others voiced by the likes of Emily Blunt, Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper and more. The CG effects for all of them look great.

Unfortunately, while IF’s emotional moments are great, everything else falls a bit flat. The jokes and humour are mostly geared specifically towards children, so adults won’t be laughing much (I certainly didn’t, though I had a few chuckles). Because of that, outside of the emotional parts of the movie, older viewers will find IF to be a bit too boring and safe for the most part. The focus of the movie is also a bit messy and all over the place, as the movie shifts focus from the IFs to Bea and vice versa without giving each of them enough time and space to fully develop. It feels like John Krasinski couldn’t find a balance between a funny movie for kids and an emotional all-ages one. I feel like, if John Krasinski had managed to focus on the best parts of the movie and had written a tighter script, IF could have even been a Bridge To Terabithia for a new generation (though nowhere near as tragic).

L Is For The Way You Look At Me

L-R, Ryan Reynolds (Cal), Louis Gossett Jr. (Lewis) and Cailey Fleming (Bea) star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”

John Krasinski’s latest directorial effort is certainly good enough for families to watch, as it will make kids laugh and still offer an emotional experience which may resonate with certain older viewers. Again, I certainly didn’t expect to cry from watching IF but I did, so you might have the same experience as well. At one point in time, many of us forgot what it was like to be a kid, and IF reminded me to hold onto those childhood memories no matter what. Sometimes, it’s the little things we’ve forgotten that could make us appreciate life again.

FINAL SCORE: 70/100

We attended a press screening of IF courtesy of United International Pictures Malaysia. IF premieres in Malaysian cinemas on 16 May 2024.

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