John Mulderig
/ Categories: Arts & Culture


By John Mulderig/OSV News

NEW YORK. John Krasinski wrote, directed and plays a prominent role in the generally wholesome fantasy “IF” (PG, Paramount). Yet, while the good intentions behind his film are evident, it ends up registering as a sweet but flawed piece of entertainment, one that gets in its own way by trying too hard to be liked.

The plot centers on Bea (Cailey Fleming), a young girl facing an emotional crisis. Having lost her beloved mother to cancer, Bea is now coping with the hospitalization of her unnamed dad (Krasinski) who needs surgery on his heart.

As she’s temporarily cared for by her somewhat flighty grandmother (Fiona Shaw), Bea makes a remarkable discovery. She can see other children’s imaginary friends. So, too, can Cal (Ryan Reynolds), granny’s irritable upstairs neighbor.

Despite his downbeat demeanor, Cal has long been engaged in a kind-hearted project. He’s been attempting, without success, to find new partnerships for those among the so-called IFs whose previous companions have outgrown and forgotten them. With only a little prompting, Bea agrees to help in this endeavor.

Krasinski sets out to celebrate the magic of childhood. And he does manage to marshal some endearing characters among the legion of varied creatures to whom we’re introduced. These include Blue, an outsized stuffed animal voiced by Steve Carell, and Lewis, an elderly and sagacious teddy bear to whom Louis Gossett Jr. lends his voice.

The effort to evoke a heartfelt response from the audience, however, feels forced. This might be highlighted by a comparison between this movie as a whole and a similar storyline incorporated into 2015’s “Inside Out.”

There, the melancholy plight of the protagonist’s abandoned fictitious pal, Bing Bong (voice of Richard Kind), is deftly presented — to touching and memorable effect. Krasinski’s approach, by contrast, consists of signaling to moviegoers what they ought to be feeling and leaving it at that.

While “IF” is appropriate, overall, for a wide range of age groups, its dialogue includes an excess of exclamations invoking the deity. Along with a fleeting gastro-intestinal gag, these needless, if more or less anodyne, expressions somewhat taint Krasinski’s otherwise family-friendly script.

The film contains numerous mild oaths and brief scatological humor. The OSV News classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.

(John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter/X @JohnMulderig1.)

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