Heart, Humor, and Imagination Make IF a Gem for Kids and Adults

Cailey Fleming (Bea) and Steve Carell (Blue) star in Paramount Pictures' "IF."

Following two successful turns in the horror genre with A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part II, director John Krasinski goes in the complete opposite direction with his latest film. IF is a kid-friendly fantasy dramedy about imagination, creativity, and the positive effects they have on us even in the worst times.

IF starts with a beginning reminiscent of Pixar’s Up as we watch home movies of Bea (Audrey Hoffman), her mom (Catharine Daddario), and her dad (Krasinski) and their seemingly happy life in their New York City apartment. Throughout the videos, we see Bea’s mom is diagnosed with cancer and eventually passes away. It’s a surprisingly heavy way to start the film, particularly one geared toward kids, but Krasinski doesn’t make the scene overly dramatic or sad. It’s a gracefully constructed sequence that looks at a family full of love and joy toward each other as they try to stay positive during dark times.

We then jump forward years later. Bea (played by Cailey Fleming) is now twelve years old and losing her mother has made her cynical for her age. She takes life too seriously and has lost all the creativity and imagination she had when she was younger. With her father sick in the hospital and about to have surgery, Bea is taking things very seriously in hopes of not losing another parent. 

L-r, Sam Rockwell (Super Dog), Cello, Akwafina (Bubble), Matt Damon (Flower), Keegan-Michael Key (Slime Ball) and Jon Stewart (Robot) star in Paramount Pictures' "IF."
L-R, Sam Rockwell (Super Dog), Cello, Akwafina (Bubble), Matt Damon (Flower), Keegan-Michael Key (Slime Ball) and Jon Stewart (Robot) star in Paramount Pictures’ IF.

While her dad is in the hospital, Bea meets Cal (Ryan Reynolds) who lives in an apartment one floor above her. She discovers that Cal works with the former imaginary friends of kids who stopped believing in them. Bea and Cal soon find themselves on a mission to pair their imaginary friends, or IFs, with their old real-life friends.

Krasinski shows he has great control of tone and balancing stories, which is one of the key successes of the film. IF has a lot of emotion running through it. There is the tragic story of a girl who lost her mom and is worried about losing her dad. There is a story of a girl rediscovering her imagination and creativity. There is humor that comes from the various imaginary creatures and a heartwarming story of finding them new friends. Krasinski, who also wrote the film, is able to balance all of these stories and tones beautifully, never short-changing us on any of the characters or stories and making us invested in every character’s journey, even the imaginary friends we are only with for a brief moment. In the hands of a lesser director, some characters might have gotten lost within the story or a plot might have gotten overly dramatic or too silly. But Krasinski’s skill with tone and storytelling, which he showed in both Quiet Place films, never lets any emotion dominate and overtake the film and never lets any character get left behind.

L-R, Ryan Reynolds (Cal), Louis Gossett Jr. (Lewis) and Cailey Fleming (Bea) star in Paramount Pictures' "IF."
L-R, Ryan Reynolds (Cal), Louis Gossett Jr. (Lewis), and Cailey Fleming (Bea) star in Paramount Pictures’ IF.

Krasinski casts a murderer’s row of actors to voice the imaginary friends. Emily Blunt, Bradley Cooper, Blake Lively, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins, Sam Rockwell, Matt Damon, the late Louis Gossett Jr., and many more lend their voices to the cast and all are having a blast. Steve Carrell and Phoebe Waller-Bridge get the most action out of the imaginary friends as Carrell plays an energetic purple monster named Blue and Waller-Bridge plays a dancing cartoon character named Blossom. The film’s heart comes from the performance of Cailey Fleming, who is sensational as Bea. She guides us through the film and gives an impressive and emotionally complex performance. She also has perfect chemistry with Reynolds, who gives one of the better performances of his career.

The themes of staying creative and never losing your imagination even when things look bleakest are powerful messages that kids and adults will gravitate to. And everyone will find humor in the imaginary creatures. IF is a movie kids and adults will find enjoyable and emotional and is another impressive effort by Krasinski as a director.

Written by Kevin Wozniak

Kevin is a film critic and writer from the suburbs of Chicago. He is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics, Online Film & Television Association, and Internet Film Critics Society. He usually writes movie reviews and lists of Film Obsessive.

You can find more of Kevin's work at

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