Movie review: “IF” is a well-meaning family film that struggles to connect

John Krasinski’s new family film “IF” means well, but its lack of focus prevents it from earning its heartfelt moments.

It’s not as bad as early reviews made it out to be. It’s one of those movies that the family might enjoy, but not be able to explain why.

A young girl named Bea (Cailey Fleming) has lost her mother, and her father (John Krasinski) is in the hospital for some sort of surgery. She finds a necessary distraction when she moves in with her grandma and begins to see a bunch of unemployed imaginary friends — or IFs. They’re all hanging out in the upstairs apartment of a man named Cal (Ryan Reynolds). Bea takes it upon herself to reconnect the IFs to the adults who outgrew them.

Whatever that means.

After one IF touches a man on the shoulder to make him feel better in a moment of stress, there’s a celebration back at the IF hangout. I couldn’t help but wonder, what for? The man didn’t even acknowledge his childhood IF who, by the way, is tamely voiced by Steve Carell. They didn’t get back together. The IF is still alone, without a kid, so it didn’t feel successful to me.

Therein lies my problem with the story — whether it be the IF journeys, or the girl’s relationship with her deceased mom or ailing father, it’s clear we’re supposed to feel something, but the script forces those emotional moments prematurely.

As the dad, Krasinksi should be easy to care for. He feels pulled from “Bluey” — everything is a bit; he’s always playing around and living in imagination.

But after his few early scenes, Krasinski is largely absent until the conclusion of the film. We really don’t know anything else about his character or his relationship with his daughter, thus causing what should be a tearjerking climax to fall flat.

Side tangent: There are moments in this movie, where I couldn’t help but think that had they put horror music over the scene, it’d be scarier than the imaginary friend-themed horror film “Imaginary” was earlier this year.

Take the scene where Bea is in this sort of imaginationland beneath a closed amusement park. She realizes anything she imagines can come true there, and poor Cal is stuck, trying to escape while she maniacally walks down the hall, grinning and controlling his environment. A similar setting was in “Imaginary,” but “IF’s” version almost felt scarier.

Of course, there’s no horror music in “IF” — there’s an emotional, fairy tale-like melody playing over nearly every scene, which detracts from the moments that actually need the music for the feels.

Perhaps with a narrower focus and more attention on those we’re supposed to care about, the film could have moved me like it aimed to. Instead, even though I found it enjoyable, I felt rather numb.


Scott McDaniel is an assistant professor of journalism at Franklin College. He lives in Bargersville with his wife and three kids.