IF movie review & film summary (2024)

That’s the loose framework upon which Krasinski’s paper-thin script rests, one that gestures broadly at a kind of mechanical worldbuilding but soon throws its hands up in the air and greedily chases one heartstring after another. For a kid’s adventure, it’s surprisingly dour and sentimental, chucking laugh-out-loud jokes for a patient sense of melancholy. That may work well for the young dads in the audience, but it’s gotta bore kids to tears. 

Its early stretches see Krasinski using the suspenseful eye he developed during “A Quiet Place” to fascinating kid-horror effect: Janusz Kaminski shoots the winding staircase of grandma’s apartment like it’s the Overlook Hotel, and one early spooky moment shows us a kid’s-eye view of how creepy a strange old woman leering at you in the hallway can be. There’s something of Guillermo del Toro’s more sentimental work in some of these moments, building a world where imagination can be just as much a threat as comfort. 

But then we get to the IFs and their dilemma, where most of “IF” loses its steam. The creatures themselves are hardly much to write home about: they take whatever form their kids conceived, from fire-breathing dragons to walking, talking, self-roasting marshmallows, all voiced by a murderer’s row of “that guy” guest voices that’ll leave you reaching for your phone to pull up IMDb right after. 

Sure, they’re technically impressive to look at, but they’re bereft of character or whimsy. That’s especially true for the film’s central IF, Blue (Steve Carell), a purple, snaggle-toothed furball resembling the Grimace as subjected to years of British dentistry. Rather than play him with any kind of arched eyebrow, Carell gives a surprisingly workmanlike performance, a right shame given the verbal dexterity that lets him own wild animated characters like Gru. 

The human cast fares little better, especially Reynolds, who coasts through this thing with the half-hearted zeal of someone sick of repeating the same Deadpool schtick. It almost feels redundant to cast him here since he functions as a kind of stand-in for Krasinski as the “fun dad” he’s always wanted to be; instead, Calvin exists primarily as a smarmy sidekick, a fellow cynic who nonetheless helps the IFs on their mission. Then there’s Fleming herself, a waifish young girl who rises to the occasion in a few Big Moments near the end but who largely gets little to do besides pout and absorb information.