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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

IF: John Krasinski’s film about imaginary friends is a bucketload of childhood nostalgia

Cailey Fleming and Ryan Reynolds headline this live-action/animation hybrid film with Matt Damon, Bradley Cooper, Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell as voice artists

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 18.05.24, 04:22 PM
Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming in IF

Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming in IF IMDb

From being the office sweetheart in the American sitcom The Office to playing undercover agent Jack Ryan on OTT and directing some blockbuster horror films (A Quiet Place), John Krasinski has trudged a long way. In IF — a live-action/animation hybrid film about imaginary friends which he has written, directed, acted in and produced — Krasinski strives to tell a children’s story that also draws in the adults in the audience.

IF revolves around 12-year-old Bea (Cailey Fleming), who puts up at her grandmother’s (Fiona Shaw) Brooklyn apartment when her father (John Krasinski) is admitted to hospital for a surgery. During her stay, Bea discovers she has the uncanny power to see imaginary friends aka IFs. The first is Blue (voiced by Steve Carell), a large, purple creature; followed by Blossom, a butterfly (Phoebe Waller-Bridge); a unicorn (Emily Blunt); and a teddy bear (Louis Gossett Jr.).

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We learn that these IFs are the toys discarded by kids when they grow up. Enter Cal (Ryan Reynolds), Bea’s grumpy neighbour who can not only see IFs but also has a very unconventional job — to find kids who can adopt the IFs. No prizes for guessing, Bea joins Cal in his mission.

Bea lost her mother (Catharine Daddario) to cancer at an early age and is scared of losing her father too. The storyline follows Bea’s attempts to help others, including a boy named Benjamin (Alan Kim) in the hospital, as she tries to process her grief and loss while seeking comfort in the world of imaginary friends.

IF is visually stimulating for its depiction of imaginary worlds and fantastical creatures, done through a seamless integration of CGI and live action. Like the scene where Cal and Bea visit the IF retirement home (which one might mistake for a real retirement centre), and a wise, elderly teddy bear tells Bea that she can transform the place with her imagination. Bea does just that, creating a new floor, a swimming pool with Esther Williams-style dancers, and even a rock concert featuring Tina Turner.

Through a subplot involving Bea and Cal tracking down Blue’s now-adult kid (Bobby Moynihan), Krasinski wants us to take home the message that adults can benefit from rekindling their childhood whimsy.

As Bea, Cailey Fleming captures the innocence and wonder of a child forced to grow up too quickly. Ryan Reynolds makes Cal charming with his goofiness. Together, Fleming and Reynolds create some of the film’s most heart-warming moments.

A series of Hollywood A-listers have voiced the IFs — Matt Damon, Bradley Cooper, Jon Stewart, Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell. Despite their fleeting presence, each of them adds their signature touch to the storytelling. By the end of the film, you might find yourself reminiscing about your own childhood imaginary friends.

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