IF Movie Review: John Krasinski’s Imaginative Family Film: A Heartwarming Journey with Star-Studded Imaginary Friends

The film centers on a young girl named Bea (Cailey Fleming) who assists a grumpy character named Cal (Ryan Reynolds) in playing matchmaker. Notably, Bradley Cooper voices a glass of ice water.

In John Krasinski’s whimsical children’s dramedy, the “big IF” — standing for “imaginary friend” — is a towering purple creature named Blue, voiced by Steve Carell. Blue, a creation of a colorblind boy, is one of many imaginary friends in Brooklyn yearning for their now-adult companions to remember them.

At the Memory Lane Retirement Community beneath Coney Island, there’s a pink alligator (Maya Rudolph), a superhero dog (Sam Rockwell), a worn teddy bear (Louis Gossett Jr.), a retro cartoon butterfly (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a robot (Jon Stewart), an astronaut (George Clooney), a glass of ice water (Bradley Cooper), a gummy bear (Amy Schumer), a unicorn (Emily Blunt), a flower (Matt Damon), a cat in an octopus costume (Blake Lively), a ghost (Matthew Rhys), a soap bubble (Awkwafina), some green slime (Keegan-Michael Key), and an invisible blob credited to Brad Pitt.

What stands out more: Krasinski’s creativity or the real-life friendships showcased in the film?

These characters mostly appear briefly, either greeting each other or participating in group therapy sessions. Despite their brief screen time, these celebrity cameos are as significant as the main storyline, which follows Bea, a steadfast 12-year-old, and Cal as they try to match the lonely imaginary friends with new children.

For those still haunted by the poignant ending of Bing Bong in Pixar’s “Inside Out,” rest assured there are no existential threats here. The story is light-hearted, with the focus on the joy of reuniting imaginary friends with children.

Bea, a serious preteen, is the only one who can see the imaginary friends. She navigates New York City freely while her father (Krasinski) is hospitalized, her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) is distracted, and her mother is deceased. Bea’s counterpart, Cal, typically cast as an immature man, takes on a more mature, albeit grouchy, role here.

The film spells out its themes clearly for its young audience, with Michael Giacchino’s sentimental score guiding the emotional tone, and Krasinski’s character literally wearing his heart on his chest. Krasinski aims to create a prestigious children’s movie, and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski complements this with beautiful visuals of spiral staircases and leather-bound books. However, the film achieves true emotional resonance in two scenes that rely on a simple yet powerful effect: showing an adult in a way that evokes the child within.