Review: ‘IF’ underwhelms as a heart-tugging kids fantasy

Cailey Fleming and Steve Carell in IF (Courtesy/Paramount Pictures)

This is shaping up to be the summer of Ryan Reynolds, maybe.

The star’s latest film, “IF,” opens today, and in late July, he along with Hugh Jackman debut in perhaps the summer’s most anticipated movie “Deadpool and Wolverine” in the first movie featuring X-Men characters produced by Disney. Fox formerly produced all the X-Men related films.

The two films couldn’t be aimed at two more different audiences. The latter features one of the most profane trailers ever released, while the “IF” is a family-friendly kid flick that producers hope has enough nostalgia and charm for parents to sit through for multiple showings.

Written and directed by John Krasinski and featuring a who’s who voice cast, the fantasy film about adults reconnecting with their abandoned Imaginary Friends (IFs) from their childhoods, yearns to be a classic, but at least for me, the film fell a few steps short. Admittedly, I’m much older than this film’s target audience of kids and youngish parents.

I enjoyed the movie overall, but the whole thing is a bit too maudlin to really connect with me or to create the desire to see it again like the best children’s fare often does for kids of all ages.

Cailey Fleming plays Bea, a 12-year-old who has the ability to see and interact with imaginary friends — all imaginary friends — not just her’s. IFs are depicted as computer-animated creatures of all sorts, who are residing in sort of an old-age home after their child grows up and forgets about them.

Cailey learns that her grumpy, adult neighbor, Cal, (Reynolds) can still see IFs too. They begin to work together to reunite IFs with their former kids, setting up adventure, hijinks, and jokes of all sorts.

However, the movie isn’t just a romp. Bea’s mother died of cancer when she was young, and now her dad (Krasinski) is facing a life-threatening heart surgery. The movie is clearly out to tug at your heart strings, and it does so somewhat successfully, but maybe too much so.

Unlike the best animated fare from Pixar and Disney, the film’s pacing is off and the more serious storyline just doesn’t mix well with the film’s comedic elements. While the movie does offer laughs and emotional moments, the film never truly congeals. It’s a noble effort by Krasinski and Reynolds, but the movie is a pop fly that makes it to the warning track rather than a home-run smash. It is a movie, I think, kids might like, but probably not love.

It’s made well enough for a nice outing to the theater for you and your kids if that is what you are looking for, but if I were only going to see one animated movie in the theater this summer, I’d wait until “Despicable Me 4” opens July 3 or maybe try “The Garfield Movie,” which opens next week.

(PG) 1 hr. 44 min.
Grade: C+

New in Local Theaters – May 17, 2024

  • IF (PG) 1 hr. 44 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight
  • The Strangers: Chapter 1 (R) 1 hr. 31 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight
  • Back to Black (R) 2 hr. 3 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight
  • I Saw the TV Glow (PG-13) 1 hr. 40 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square
  • The Blue Angels (G) 1 hr. 34 min. (trailer)
    Malco Razorback

Classic Corner – North by Northwest

Cary Grant in North by Northwest (Courtesy/MGM Studios)

Alfred Hitchcock was a master director with dozens of inventive and entertaining films to his credit that thrill and shock.

I wouldn’t even try to name his “best” movie. The best answer to a question like that might be whichever Hitchcock film you’ve seen most recently.

That said, one of his best is definitively “North by Northwest, which will be showing locally at 1 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Malco Razorback and Pinnacle Hills theaters, in celebration of the film’s 65th anniversary.

The spy thriller from 1959 stars Cary Grant, cool blonde Eva Mari Saint, and James Mason in a sprawling, spectacular motion picture in which Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a victim of mistaken identity by agents of a nefarious organization who chase him across the nation to prevent him from halting their plan to smuggle government secrets out of the country on microfilm. But, they’ve got the wrong guy.

The film is a serious spy story but tinged with humor and sophisticated self-parody of the director and star. Those touches lift the movie above more common spy thrillers that would fill theaters in the 1960s.

The movie is action-packed including a harrowing scene where Grant is attacked by a crop-duster on a deserted highway and chased through a cornfield. The movie keeps the viewer guessing along with Grant until the secrets to the plot finally unfurl in a suspenseful third act set amidst Mount Rushmore.

Saint is compelling as the mysterious Eve Kendall. She seems unapproachable at first, but has a fun, easy, and sexy chemistry with Grant that is a major selling point of the film.

The movie is perhaps the largest production and most adventurous film helmed by Hitchcock. It’s a must see for movie buffs, and while the film plays several times a year on Turner Classic Movies, there truly is no better way to enjoy a movie of this stature than on the big screen.