Film Review: IF; John Krasinski’s family outing is wholesome but hollow

John Krasinski has primarily set himself up in the horror space across his directorial career.  And though his latest could give way to genre tendencies – imaginary friends can indeed be a terrifying notion – he’s decidedly opted for a more wholesome, family-friendly mentality with the release of IF.

IF (which stands for Imaginary Friend) centres itself around young Bea (Cailey Fleming), a pre-teen in the throws of emotional wreckage.  The opening of the film alludes to the loss of her mother, and she’s currently spending her days visiting her eternally optimistic father (Krasinski) in hospital for a sickness of sorts that he doesn’t take nearly as seriously as she would like.

Bea is thankfully not framed as too overly precocious, so we don’t mind spending time with her across IF‘s 104 minutes as she makes friends with Cal (Ryan Reynolds, a little less enthusiastic than we’re used to seeing him), a mysterious man who just happens to be working with a collective of imaginary friends who have all been forgotten as the children they used to be tethered to have outgrown them.

There’s plenty of sentimentality smattered across the film, especially in the latter half, and the idea of grown-ups sill needing their imaginary security blanket is ultimately quite sweet, but there’s an ironic lack of imagination on Krasinski’s part as a storyteller.  Visually, the creations are supremely delightful, and there’s one hell of a voice cast on hand here (Steve Carrell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr, Matt Damon, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, Amy Schumer, Maya Rudolph, Matt Damon, Blake Lively and Emily Blunt, to name a few), but everything feels so tame.  There’s no real emotional edge for us to cling to for its duration and, despite the amount of characters, there’s a lack of involvement and direction.

But perhaps because of IF‘s ultimate safety in its psychological approach it’ll prove overtly digestible for the family market it’s aiming for.  There’s nothing here that’ll have a lasting impact, but younger audiences wanting their own cinematic escape could be in for a serviceably pleasant time with a film that plays everything a little too safe.

Had there been a stronger sense of imagination – ironic – and a more structured narrative, IF could have truly been the whimsical experience Krasinski so clearly believes he’s created.  As it stands, it’s a fine outing for a market that aren’t always specifically catered to.  But upon exiting, you really can’t help but ponder about the film’s missed potential; “What if…?”, indeed.


IF is now screening in Australian theatres.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.