John Krasinski's imaginary friends star in a sweet children's movie: NPR

Bea (Cailey Fleming) and Blue (voiced by Steve Carell) in IF.

Paramount Pictures


hide caption

change caption

Paramount Pictures

if vfx 004 rgb 37787556f040e5334dca6d68321e81016f654651

Bea (Cailey Fleming) and Blue (voiced by Steve Carell) in IF.

Paramount Pictures

The third installment in John Krasinski's blockbuster horror franchise A quiet place will soon deploy noise-activated monsters to scream-scare the public. But the filmmaker starts the summer with sweeter monsters – the sweetest ones, actually – in IF.

Which doesn't mean she kills 12-year-old Bea (Walking dead Cailey Fleming) to faint the first time she sees them, even though honestly she has a lot on her mind. Having already lost her mother to cancer, she moves in with her grandmother for a while while her father is in the hospital awaiting surgery.

Still, when should not encountering a giant stuffed animal in the apartment above be startling, even if he turns out to be a sweetheart voiced by Steve Carell? It is an imaginary friend (an 'ALS' in his parlance) of a child who has long forgotten him – and who, because he was color blind, called him 'Blue', even though he is purple.

Also up there is Blossom (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a life-size ballerina doll, and the apartment's troubled resident, Cal (Ryan Reynolds), the only person besides Bea who seems to be able to see IFs.

Bea tries to be very mature for her father, played by director Krasinski. When she visits him in the hospital, he starts dancing with his IV pole and making jokes, and she has to tell him to dial things back a bit. As the film progresses, you might be tempted to repeat that regarding his direction, but things certainly liven up when the IFs explain that they've started a matchmaking agency to help fellow imaginary friends find new kids. Bea volunteers to help and soon meets a bunch of critters—unicorns, dragons, and even a flaming marshmallow—at an IF retirement home on Coney Island.

All this gives Krasinski an excuse to enlist an army of digital animators, first to bring to life imaginary critters voiced by his famous Hollywood friends, including George Clooney, Awkwafina, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Jon Stewart, Steve Carell, and the late Lou Gossett Jr. in a warmly fatherly turn as a supervising teddy bear. And then to have the walls and floors of the retirement home change and flip as if they were just so many pixels.

At that point, if you're like me, you might start wanting something sturdier to hold on to, like say, a plot that holds up, or even that just stands still. This one jumps around much like the IFs themselves, first pairing them with new children, and then with their now adult original children, with little logic and less explanation.

Along the way, some intriguing issues are raised: about wanting to return to childhood, about growing out of childhood and about dealing with loss.

But usually the filmmakers take a detour, decorate and digitize their story instead of telling it, and that doesn't go well together with the stuff of the real world – Dad's surgery, for example, and Bea wandering around Brooklyn without her grandmother seeming to notice. And yes, I know: IF is a children's film, but still needs grounding. We're in Brooklyn, not Willy Wonkaland.

Even despite star voices and digital wizardry, IF's IFs feel generic, especially when they steal the focus from the live performers. Grandma, for example. No filmmaker who has actress Fiona Shaw on screen needs special effects.

Krasinski clearly knows that. He has created a beautiful moment in which Bea puts a ballet record – the 'Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia' – on the turntable, and Grandma stands listening to it, bathed in the twilight in front of a window, with her back to the camera. She remembers the dancer she was as a child, and as the music rises, so does her right hand… just so. And in that beautiful, casual gesture you realize what Krasinski's sweet childhood film could have been… IF only.

Related Posts

Nicole Brown Simpson's sisters reflect on their abusive relationship with OJ Simpson ahead of the 30th anniversary of the murder

Almost 30 years later Nicole Brown SimpsonAfter her murder, her siblings opened up about her life and death – and wondered if more they could have done to possibly save…

Secret list of reasons why the president could lose revealed

“This isn't, 'Oh my God, Mitt Romney could be president.' It's 'Oh my God, democracy might end,'” the officer said. In April, the Trump campaign said it had raised a…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Missed

Nicole Brown Simpson's sisters reflect on their abusive relationship with OJ Simpson ahead of the 30th anniversary of the murder

  • May 28, 2024
Nicole Brown Simpson's sisters reflect on their abusive relationship with OJ Simpson ahead of the 30th anniversary of the murder

Michael Jordan and Woody Harrelson: Tales from the Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend

  • May 28, 2024
Michael Jordan and Woody Harrelson: Tales from the Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend

10 Tips For Becoming A Successful Entrepreneur in 2024

  • May 28, 2024
10 Tips For Becoming A Successful Entrepreneur in 2024

Ominous sign for Trump now that the jury delves into the prosecution during the closing arguments

  • May 28, 2024
Ominous sign for Trump now that the jury delves into the prosecution during the closing arguments

Freddie Mac suggests buying mortgage loans

  • May 28, 2024
Freddie Mac suggests buying mortgage loans

DNC plans to nominate Biden and Harris virtually before the convention

  • May 28, 2024
DNC plans to nominate Biden and Harris virtually before the convention

How a school district is using AI to solve its bus driver shortage

  • May 28, 2024
How a school district is using AI to solve its bus driver shortage

Secret list of reasons why the president could lose revealed

  • May 28, 2024
Secret list of reasons why the president could lose revealed

Gael Monfils interview: Roland Garros, showmanship, Svitolina and Skai

  • May 28, 2024
Gael Monfils interview: Roland Garros, showmanship, Svitolina and Skai

Why I Love My CSA (It's More Than the Weekly Box of Fresh Produce)

  • May 28, 2024
Why I Love My CSA (It's More Than the Weekly Box of Fresh Produce)

DNC will nominate Biden and Harris through virtual proceedings ahead of the convention

  • May 28, 2024
DNC will nominate Biden and Harris through virtual proceedings ahead of the convention