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At The Movies: What ‘IF’ ... ?

What “IF” ... ?

That was my thought after seeing “IF,” a cinematic love letter to coming-of-age movies and the secret world of children’s imaginations.

The movie’s title, “IF,” stands for Imaginary Friend.

“IF” is one of those movies that is good. “IF” is one of those movies that could have been great. “IF” had the potential to become a classic children’s film.

It’s not my purview to rewrite the screenplay of a movie that I review. However, John Krasinski, writer-director of “IF,” could have yelled those time-honored words in journalism, “Get me rewrite!”

In the movie, “IF,” a girl named, Bea (Cailey Fleming) at age 12 on the cusp of becoming a teen-ager, is experiencing trauma. Her mother died. Her father (John Krasinski) is facing surgery for a life-threatening heart ailment. Bea moves in with her grandmother Margaret (Fiona Shaw).

Bea has an Imaginary Friend, an IF, named Cal (Ryan Reynolds). He helps her with the ability for her to see the Imaginary Friend of others and to help others develop the ability to see their own Imaginary Friend.

There is a sort-of “Who wants to be an Imaginary Friend” audition where the IFs briefly state their attributes.

There are 22, by my count, IFs in “IF.” Few IFs are given much dialogue, with the exception of Blue (voiced Steve Carell), who is purple in color. Hahaha. That’s the level of humor in “IF.”

The Imaginary Friends look more as if they are at a Cosplay, convention, or “costume play” gathering, whereby folks dress up as their favorite comic book, cartoon video game or movie characters and role-play.

In the movie, “IF,” the Imaginary Friends are created with Computer Generated Imagery. The CGI characters are not always integrated well with the movie’s human characters, especially in scenes of Blue (who resembles a giant loofah with eyes, mouth, arms and legs) and Ryan Reynolds.

The movie gets sidetracked by its disjointed screenplay, not only in the Imaginary Friends audition scene, but by a music video sequence with Bea and Imaginary Friends for the Tina Turner song, “Better be Good to Me”; the medical challenges of Bea’s father; the dancer ambitions of Bea’s grandmother (Fiona Shaw), recalled to a recording of the “Spartacus” (1954) ballet symphonic score by Aram Khachaturian (1903 - 1978), and the business aspirations of Jeremy (Bobby Moynihan).

The movie devolves into sketch comedy, none of which moves the story forward of “IF,” which is essentially the story if Bea.

The movie’s most emotionally-compelling scenes are those with Cailey Fleming (“Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens,” 2015), who, as Bea, excels in the role.

Ryan Reynolds as Cal has more of a supporting role, even though the movie poster for “IF” would lead you to believe otherwise. John Krasinski has even less time on screen as the father.

The voice talents of the Imaginary Friends, who look like they didn’t make the final cut for the “Toy Story” movies, while impressive in name are not impressive in voice.

The Imaginary Friends include voices by Steve Carrell (Blue), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Blossom), Louis Gossett Jr. (Lewis, a teddy bear), Awkwafina (Pop), Emily Blunt (Uni, a unicorn), George Clooney (Spaceman), Bradley Cooper (Ice), Matt Damon (Sunny), Bill Hader (a banana), Richard Jenkins (Art Teacher), Keegan-Michael Key (Steven, a blob), Blake Lively (Octopuss), Sebastian Maniscalco (mouse), Christopher Meloni (Cosmo), Matthew Rhys (a ghost), Sam Rockwell (Guardian Dog), Maya Rudolph (Ally the alligator), Jon Stewart (Robot) and Brad Pitt (Keith).

Cinematographer is Janusz Kaminski (seven-time Oscar nominee; two-time Oscar winner: Cinematography, “Saving Private Ryan,” 1999; Cinematography, “Schindler’s List,” 1994). Composer is Michael Giacchino (Oscar, original score, “Up,” 2010).

“IF” writer-director John Krasinski (four-time Primetime Emmy nominee, actor, TV’s “The Office”; director, “A Quiet Place,” 2018; “A Quiet Place, Part 11,” 2020; TV’s ”Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” 2018-2023) missed a lot of opportunities to go from what “IF” to “IF” only.

“IF” seems to be going for the territory of “Toy Story” (1995), “E.T.” (1982) and “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971), but lacks much of the charm of those movies.

A scene from the movie, “Harvey” (1950) in which James Stewart has a 6- foot, 3-and-1/2-inch rabbit as an imaginary friend, is heard and shown briefly in “IF.”

Now that was an Imaginary Friend.

“IF” should enjoyed by children and their and parents and may generate lively and fun conversation afterward.


MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.) for thematic elements and mild language; Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama; Run Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes. Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

“IF” is dedicated to Louis Gossett Jr. (May 27, 1936 - March 29, 2024) “IF” was produced from November 2019 through May 2023. Locations included Coney Island, Brooklyn, N.Y.

At The Movies:

“IF” was seen in Dolby at AMC, AMC Center Valley 16. The movie is fine to see in the standard format.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Weekend Box Office,

May 31-June 2: “The Garfield Movie” was sitting pretty at No. 1 with $14 million in 4,108 theaters, $51.5 million, two weeks, chasing “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” from its one-week run at No. 1, dropping one place to No. 2 with $10.7 million in 3,864 theaters, $49.6 million, two weeks, in a virtual tie with “IF,” moving up one place, with $10.8 million in 3,783 theaters, $80.4 million, three weeks.

4. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” stayed in place, $8.8 million in 3,450 theaters, $139.9 million, four weeks. 5. “The Fall Guy” stayed in place, $4.2 million in 2,826 theaters; $80.2 million, five weeks. 6. “The Strangers: Chapter 1” stayed in place, $3.6 million in 2,527 theaters, $28.3 million, three weeks.

7. “Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle,” opening, $3.5 million in 1,119 theaters. 8. “In a Violent Nature,” opening, $2.1 million in 1,426 theaters. 9. “Ezra,” opening, $1.1 million in 1,320 theaters. 10. “Sight” dropped three places, $1 million in 2,118 theaters, $5.8 million, two weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of June 2 is subject to change.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Weekend Box Office,

May 24-26: “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” barreled to No. 1, opening with $26.3 million in 3,804 theaters, with “The Garfield Movie” clawing its way to No. 2, opening with $24 million in 4,035 theaters, as “IF” dropped two places to No. 3 from one week at No. 1 with $16.1 million in 4,068 theaters, $58.7 million, two weeks.

4. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” dropped two places, $13.3 million in 3,550 theaters, $122.8 million, three weeks. 5. “The Fall Guy” dropped one place, $5.9 million in 2,955 theaters; $72.2 million, four weeks. 6. “The Strangers: Chapter 1” dropped three places, $5.5 million in 2,856 theaters, $21.3 million, two weeks. 7. “Sight,” opening, $2.7 million in 2,100 theaters. 8. “Challengers” dropped three places, $1.4 million in 1,089 theaters; $46.5 million, five weeks. 9. “Back to Black” dropped three places, $1 million in 2,013 theaters, $4.9 million, two weeks. 10. “Babes” moved up eight places, $1 million in 595 theaters, $1.2 million, two weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of May 26 is subject to change.


June 7:

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die,”

R: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah direct Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Vanessa Hudgens in the Action, Adventure, Comedy. Miami’s finest are not so nice.

“The Watchers,”

PG-13: Ishana Shyamalan directs Dakota Fanning and Georgina Campbell in the Fantasy, Horror, Mystery. The Watchers observe human captives. The movie is based on the book of the same title by A.M. Shine.

“The School of Magical Animals 2,”

PG: Sven Unterwaldt Jr. directs Emilia Maier, Loris Sichrovsky and Lilith Julie Johna in the Adventure Comedy, Family. Children want to put on a musical for the school’s anniversary.

Movie opening date information from Internet Movie Database as of June 2 is subject to change.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED IMAGE BY PARAMOUNT PICTURES You've got a friend: From left, Blue (voiced by Steve Carrell), Cailey Fleming (Bea), Ryan Reynolds (Cal), “IF.”