Friendly but forgettable

Mick Ferris
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IF (U, 104 minutes)

Writer/director/actor John Krasinski’s stab at a CV-stretching family film comes with all the basic ingredients deemed essential to the genre including a huge dollop of sentimentality.

But where films like Up and Toy Story 3 will have us happily lapping it up (we know we’re being emotionally manipulated but readily accept it as part of the deal) there are points in IF where the jaded amongst us can’t help but feel resentful that we’re being cynically played.

After having already lost her mother to cancer and now facing the prospect of her dad (Krasinski) being in hospital awaiting medically unspecified surgery dismissed simply as “a broken heart”, 12-year old Bea (Cailey Fleming) suddenly becomes able to see all of the imaginary friends that have been discarded by children who have since grown out of such things.

Her grandmother’s neighbour Cal (Ryan Reynolds) is trying without much success to either repair the link with their now adult former companions or find them new children to be paired with and after visiting an Ifs retirement home hidden beneath Coney Island amusement park, the somehow completely unsupervised child decides to help Cal in his quest.

The menagerie of CGI creatures from purple fur giant Blue (so named because his child had been colour blind) to a talking ice cube in a glass of water are voiced by a roll call of Hollywood A-listers including Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emily Blunt, Blake Lively, Akwafina, George Clooney, Amy Schumer, Jon Stewart, Bradley Cooper, Lou Gossett Jr and Maya Rudolph, many of whom (with the exception of Carell, who compared to his previous voiceover work appears to be on autopilot,, Waller-Bridge and Gossett) probably completed their work in less than a day.

That said, IF is not without its charm. There’s a nice little twist to the plot and I presume Reynolds was attracted to the role as it’s something his kids can actually watch daddy in.

But as someone who needs to watch his sugar levels, (and never felt the need for an imaginary friend anyway) there are some scenes that are just too sickly sweet for your average Type 2 diabetic to take (that’ll be me then) including a cringy song and dance piece and Bea tearfully pleading with her unconscious post op father at his hospital bed not to leave her alone as she’s just a kid.

Although it’s unlikely to be remembered, not measuring up to Pixar’s best is not exactly the end of the world – they set a high bar with a handful of their films – and there are positives to be found even amid the exploitative nature of IF’s execution such as young Cailey Fleming and for Reynolds there’s comfort than can be taken from the fact that at least this is nowhere near as bad as Spirited.

RATED: 6/10

Mick Ferris

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