IF review: John Krasinski's movie has vibrant, scattered imagination

There's plenty to like about IF, but also some story and character holes.

Cailey Fleming and Blue in IF
(Image: © Paramount Pictures)

What to Watch Verdict

IF has so much going for it that the fact that the movie isn't always able to bring it together effectively is probably the most disappointing thing about it.


  • +

    From cinematography to special effects, a Grade A effort

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    Steve Carell and Louis Gossett Jr.'s IFs steal the show


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    Chooses quantity over quality when developing its wide-range of characters

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    Reynolds' natural charm works against him

It's not the most obvious move going from directing two alien horror movies to a kids-centric story about imaginary friends, but John Krasinski proves with IF that he is more than capable of switching up genre and tone. Handsomely made, there are some truly spectacular moments and memorable characters sprinkled throughout IF, but also some shortcomings with story and character keeping it from reaching its full potential.

Written and directed by Krasinski, IF follows 12-year-old Bea (Cailey Fleming) who discovers she has the ability to see imaginary friends — or IFs, as they liked to be called — who have been forgotten by their kids (who have now grown up). She ends up teaming with Cal (Ryan Reynolds) to help the likes of Blue (Steve Carell), Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and other IFs.

The movie looks great (with cinematography provided by Janusz Kaminski), has a strong score from Michael Giacchino and its ensemble of stars both as voice and real-life actors give fun, and sometimes great, performances, deliver some truly cinematic and emotional moments, but then there are stretches (and characters) of the movie that aren't as fully developed.

The best example for the good in the movie is Blue, the giant purple fluff that has been at the center of most of the movie's marketing campaign. Carell does a great job voicing the lovable oaf and the audience truly gets a sense of him as he helps lay out the motivating factors, all of which are paid off beautifully. Would have to expect that kids are going to quickly fall in love with Blue.

There are other strong voice performances in the movie, particularly from the late Louis Gossett Jr. as a wide and elderly IF named Lewis and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Blossom. Each has a couple of moments, but their characters aren't given the same amount of detail as Blue, which ultimately makes them feel forgotten or ultimately irrelevant in the grand scheme of the movie.  

That same issue is multiplied with the other group of IFs voiced by many Hollywood A-listers (Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, Awkwafina, Jon Stewart, Maya Rudolph, Sam Rockwell, Blake Lively and more), only getting a scene or two. While in a lot of cases this leads to many of the movie's laughs, it's a lot of time spent with these characters for one-off jokes and then for them to not really have a purpose for the rest of the movie.

Another thing not explored enough is the threat hanging over the IFs in the movie. It is repeated multiple times that if an IF's kid forgets them, then they run the risk of disappearing. Now in a movie that definitely offers its opportunity for tear-inducing moments, I can only imagine what the sight of an IF disappearing may have done to kids, but not paying that off creates a hole in the movie's logic. 

Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming in IF

Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming in IF (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

As for the real-life actors, everyone is just fine. Fleming is serviceable if unmemorable. Fiona Shaw as her grandmother has one nice scene and then isn't given much else to do. Krasinski's role as Bea's ailing father is one-note. As for Reynolds, his natural charm and Cal's jaded personality seem constantly at odds, creating an awkward performance.

Yet despite all the faults, Krasinski is mostly successful with conveying the message of the movie: that you never have to say goodbye to the spirit of being a kid, and holding on to the memories of your childhood can be immensely positive for you even as an adult.

It's not hard to see kids loving IF and in 10 to 20 years remembering it fondly. But there are issues with the movie that prevent it from being considered in the realm of other classic family-friendly movies.

IF releases exclusively in movie theaters worldwide on May 17.

Curious what other movies are coming up? Check out our list of the full 2024 new movie release schedule. Also keep up with our best-reviewed movies of 2024 list.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.