Friday 21 June 2024

REVIEW: IF (2024) - Starring Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds and Steve Carell


Review by Jon Donnis

"IF," directed by John Krasinski, is a heartwarming 2024 live-action animated fantasy comedy that offers a touching exploration of imagination, childhood, and the painful realities of growing up. The film centers on twelve-year-old Bea, portrayed with remarkable sensitivity by Cailey Fleming, who is grappling with her father's serious illness. As her father undergoes heart surgery in the same hospital where her mother passed away years earlier, Bea finds herself living with her grandmother in New York. Amidst the emotional upheaval, she encounters a hidden world of forgotten imaginary friends, or IFs, that rekindle her sense of wonder and hope.

The narrative unfolds as Bea, initially trying to maintain a facade of maturity, discovers an unfamiliar creature one night while out buying a charger for her mother's old camcorder. This encounter leads her to Cal, played with affable charm by Ryan Reynolds, and his charge, Blue, a large furry purple creature. Cal reveals that he has been working with these imaginary friends, helping them find new children after their original companions have outgrown them. Bea's initial reluctance to get involved melts away as she is drawn into this enchanting endeavor.

The film takes Bea and the audience to the whimsical Memory Lane Retirement Home, a hidden sanctuary for retired IFs located underneath a swing in Coney Island. Here, she meets Lewis, an elderly teddy bear voiced with endearing warmth by Louis Gossett Jr., who becomes a pivotal figure in inspiring Bea to embrace her imaginative side. The scenes set in this fantastical retirement home are visually captivating, filled with vibrant creature designs and a rich tapestry of animated characters that highlight the film's creative depth.

Bea's journey to reunite these forgotten friends with their original owners is both humorous and deeply moving. One particularly touching subplot involves Blue and his original companion, Jeremy, now a grown man. Through a series of heartfelt and nostalgic moments, Bea helps Jeremy remember Blue, bringing a sense of closure and renewed confidence to both the imaginary friend and his human counterpart. These moments are emblematic of the film's broader theme: the enduring power of childhood memories and the comfort they can bring in times of need.

The storyline also delves into Bea's relationship with her grandmother, Margaret, portrayed by Fiona Shaw. In a poignant twist, Bea discovers that her grandmother's own IF, Blossom, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, still holds a place in her heart. This realization underscores the film's message that imagination and the connections forged in childhood can have lasting impacts well into adulthood.

John Krasinski's direction ensures that "IF" balances its whimsical elements with genuine emotional depth. The film is not without its visual flaws; some interactions between human characters and animated IFs occasionally suffer from less-than-perfect visual effects. However, these moments are minor blemishes in an otherwise beautifully rendered film.

The performances across the board are strong, with Cailey Fleming's portrayal of Bea standing out for its authenticity and emotional range. Ryan Reynolds brings his characteristic humor and warmth to the role of Cal, making him a lovable and memorable guide through this magical world. The voice cast, including Steve Carell as Blue and Emily Blunt as Unicorn, adds a layer of charm and personality to the animated characters, making them feel as real and important as their human counterparts.

"IF" is a film that resonates on multiple levels. It's a nostalgic trip for adults who once had imaginary friends of their own, and a captivating adventure for children who still do. The film's underlying message about the importance of embracing imagination and the power of memories is delivered with a sincerity that is both uplifting and reassuring.

"IF" is a delightful family film that combines imaginative storytelling with heartfelt performances. It is a testament to the enduring magic of childhood and the imaginary friends who help us through life's toughest moments. There is even a M. Night Shyamalan style twist to look out for. Despite a few visual hiccups, the film's charm, creativity, and emotional depth make it a must-watch. I thoroughly enjoyed "IF" and would rate it a strong 8 out of 10.

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