Year:  2024

Director:  John Krasinski

Rated:  PG

Release:  May 16

Distributor: Paramount

Running time: 104 minutes

Worth: $18.00
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Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming, Fiona Shaw, John Krasinski, Steve Carrell

Intro: eye-popping delight...

If you’ve seen the ingenious, utterly disarming Pixar wonder Inside Out, there’s a big chance you still bear the emotional scars from watching in tears when Riley’s childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong fades into nothingness because he no longer plays a part in her life. Well, if you’re up for a little more of that sweet, sad, heartbreaking pain, then John Krasinski’s new film IF pretty much expands that whole concept into a feature film, and mines it for the same kind of bittersweet beauty that will have kids quietly weeping, and likely their parents too. Like Inside Out, there are plenty of laughs too, but IF happily throws down with an impressive kind of emotional clout that will hit you right in the heart.

With her mother lost to cancer several years previous, twelve-year-old Bea (the sweet-as-all-get-out Cailey Fleming, best known as feisty young Judith on The Walking Dead, and a likely big star of the future) thinks she’s too old for kids’ stuff. But when her beloved, constantly clowning dad (the excellent John Krasinski) winds up in hospital for heart surgery, Bea realises that she’s not quite as mature as she thinks, and suddenly finds herself surrounded by a horde of childless imaginary friends (the IFs of the title) and Calvin (Ryan Reynolds – in curiously biceps-bulging Deadpool form – effectively shades his usual wisecrackery with a little sadness here), the man charged with corralling them and finding them new children. Bea very quickly learns that there’s nothing wrong with reconjuring your childhood imaginary friend when you need a little non-judgmental love and support.

After mastering high-tone suspense with his two A Quiet Place films, actor/writer/director John Krasinski shifts gears masterfully with IF, maintaining his rich sense of imagination, but applying it this time to something distinctly family-friendly. Krasinski gleefully allows that sense of imagination to run wild with a cacophony of gorgeously rendered CGI imaginary friends, all with their own endearing idiosyncrasies, and voices provided by a starry cast including the likes of Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emily Blunt, Awkwafina, Sam Rockwell, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Louis Gossett Jr. and many more. Complete with Mandy Moore-choreographed dance sequences and stunning set-pieces, IF is an eye-popping delight, but it’s in its later stages that the film really soars. When the film’s imaginary friends are played for more than just laughs – and when their true importance is really showcased – you’ll very likely feel your heartstrings being violently but pleasantly pulled. Resounding with genuine emotion, warmth, sensitivity and a wonderfully wild kind of abandon, IF is the very definition of quality family filmmaking.