Critics Have Seen IF, And They Have Mixed Feelings About John Krasinski’s Family Friendly Fantasy Flick

Ryan Reynolds as Cal and Cailey Fleming as Bea walk down a hospital hallway with a large purple furry imaginary friend, an animated unicorn and a pink alligator in the movie IF.
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The world of imaginary friends has already been broached on the big screen this year with the horror flick Imaginary, but John Krasinski is here with a much more family friendly take on the matter in the upcoming movie IF, which hits theaters on May 17. The writer and director of A Quiet Place tells the story of Bea (Cailey Fleming) and Cal (Ryan Reynolds), who each have the power to see other people’s abandoned imaginary friends (aka IFs) and go about trying to find them homes. Critics have screened the movie, and while they love its creativity and heart, they find other aspects lacking.

Not only does IF reunite The Office stars John Krasinski and Steve Carell — who voices one of the imaginary creatures — but the movie features a fun cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Fiona Shaw and The Bear’s Liza Colón-Zayas, as well as voices from some big names like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Bradley Cooper, Blake Lively and many more. In the CinemaBlend review of IF, Riley Utley says Krasinski’s creativity shines in this heartwarming tale. She rates it 4 out of 5 stars, writing: 

This film is a reminder that it’s important to keep our inner child alive, and it’s a call to action to get back in touch with imagination. All-in-all, it’s a wildly creative and optimistic tale that is equal parts moving and silly, and while it has one minor downfall, the heart and moral at the center of it makes it irresistible.

Rachel Labonte of ScreenRant agrees that the movie’s heart and fantastical elements make up for some clunky plot mechanics, and the cast delivers some great performances —- even if all the celebrity cameos get a little distracting. The critic gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars, and says: 

By going with a more character-driven, emotional approach, IF finds ample opportunities to tug on our heartstrings. This is a movie that welcomes embracing your childhood and encourages you to find wonder in the world, even when things are hard. There are messages that will surely resonate with many people, though some might roll their eyes at the amount of sentimentality baked into the plot. I personally found myself charmed by the overall effect, though I did find some parts lacking.

However, not all of the critics are won over by the film’s emotional stories. Kate Erbland of IndieWire gives it a C-, writing that IF is tonally confusing and doesn’t seem fun enough for kids or smart enough for adults. Erbland continues: 

That Krasinski is using such a story to presumably tell us something deeper and darker about the human condition is understandable — what, after all, is good kids’ entertainment meant to do, but educate and entertain in equal measure? — but the divide between the wacky world of the IFs and the harsh concerns of Bea’s real life is too far. Tonally, IF never finds a happy medium. Story-wise, it doesn’t bridge the gap between pure imagination and basic narrative flow. We don’t know what’s happening most of the time, and worst yet, we don’t know how to feel about it, no matter our age. That’s much more than a failure of just imagination.

Frank Scheck of THR says it’s obvious how much care John Krasinski has put into the movie, and the cinematography and score show incredible craftsmanship. However, the IFs’ slapstick comedy feels generic, Scheck writes, and the world-building is a bit ramshackle. Still, if IF can be accused of trying too hard, the critic acknowledges that it’s a refreshing change from the family movies that don’t try at all. In Scheck’s words: 

IF aims for obvious laughs with its multitude of amusing computer-animated characters featuring all sorts of incarnations from teddy bears to melting marshmallows. But it also strains for deep emotion in its poignant depiction of children moving on from such invented creations, who, much like the plaything characters in Toy Story, are deeply saddened by their abandonment. It’s a delicate balancing act that Krasinski nearly but doesn’t quite pull off, resulting in a film plagued by significant tonal shifts and pacing issues. Not to mention a certain air of familiarity, thanks to its resemblance to numerous Pixar films and movies like A Monster Calls.

Tomris Laffly of Variety says despite a classical look and big heart, the humor and animated characters in IF fall flat, failing to achieve the magic of similar films we’ve seen from Pixar. Laffly continues: 

The animated IFs never quite impress, enlighten or entertain us enough, even when they launch into an adorable song-and-dance number. Elsewhere, Bea’s regular trips to the hospital to visit his spirited dad (during which we get to meet Alan Kim’s adorable Benjamin) always feel like an uncomfortable afterthought. Krasinski’s concept borrows generously from Pixar films like Monsters Inc., but is so chaotic and half-considered that you don’t feel as inspired as you should be, making it hard to submit to the film’s alternate reality.

All of the critics are finding positive and negative elements to John Krasinski’s upcoming fantasy film, though they disagree which of those win in the end. If this sounds like a movie you’d like to check out, you can do so starting Friday, May 17, and be sure to take a peek at our 2024 movie calendar to see what else is hitting the big screen soon. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.