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John Krasinski’s Imaginary Friends Star in Adorable Kids’ Movie: NPR

Bea (Cailey Fleming) and Blue (voiced by Steve Carell) in IF.

Paramount Pictures


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Paramount Pictures


Bea (Cailey Fleming) and Blue (voiced by Steve Carell) in IF.

Paramount Pictures

The third installment of John Krasinski’s hit horror franchise A silent place will soon employ noise-triggered monsters to scare audiences without screaming. But the filmmaker is starting the summer with gentler monsters – the gentlest, really – in IF.

Which doesn’t mean they don’t talk to 12-year-old Bea (The Walking Dead Cailey Fleming) immediately faints the first time she sees them – even though, in all honesty, she has a lot on her mind. Having already lost her mother to cancer, she moves in with her grandmother for a while while her father is in the hospital awaiting an operation.

However, when wouldn’t I will meeting a giant stuffed creature in the apartment upstairs be surprising, even if it turns out to be a love interest (voiced by Steve Carell)? He is the imaginary friend (an “IF”, in his language) of a child who has long forgotten him – and who, being colorblind, named him “Blue” even though he is purple.

Also up there are Blossom (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a life-size ballerina doll, and the apartment’s concerned resident Cal (Ryan Reynolds), the only person besides Bea who seems able to see the IFs. .

Bea tries to become a grown-up for her father, played by director Krasinski. When she visits him in the hospital, he starts dancing with his IV pole and making jokes, and she has to tell him to go back a little. As the film progresses, you might be tempted to echo this in regards to its making, but things are certainly lively as the FIs explain that they created a matchmaking agency to help d other imaginary friends to find new children. Bea volunteers to help and soon encounters many creatures – unicorns, dragons and even a flaming marshmallow – at an IF retirement home in Coney Island.

All of this gives Krasinski an excuse to bring in an army of digital animators, first to bring to life imaginary creatures voiced by his best Hollywood friends, including George Clooney, Awkwafina, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Jon Stewart, Steve Carell, and the late Lou Gossett Jr. in a warmly avuncular role as the supervising teddy bear. And then make the walls and floors of the retirement home transform and flip as if they were simple pixels.

At that point, if you’re like me, you might start to want something a little more solid to hold on to – like, say, a plot that holds together, or even just holds together. This one jumps around as much as the FIs themselves, connecting them first to the new children, then to their now-adult original children, with little logic and less explanation.

Along the way, intriguing questions are raised: the desire to return to childhood, leaving childhood, and dealing with loss.

But most of the time, filmmakers twist, decorate and digitize their story rather than tell it, and it doesn’t sit well. with real-world things – Dad’s surgery, for example, and Bea wandering all over Brooklyn without her grandmother seeming to notice. And yes, I know: IF is a children’s film, but it still needs to be grounded. This is Brooklyn, not Willy Wonkaland.

Moreover, despite the voices of the stars and the digital magic, IF‘s FIs seem generic, especially when they distract from the live performers. Grandma, for example. No filmmaker who has actress Fiona Shaw on screen needs special effects.

Krasinski, in fact, clearly knows this. He created a lovely moment where Bea puts a ballet record – the “Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia” – on the turntable, and Grandma listens to it, bathed in twilight in front of a window, her back to the camera. She remembers the dancer she was as a child, and as the music builds, so does her right hand… just like that. And in that charming, unforced gesture, you realize all the other things that Krasinski’s sweet little children’s film could have been… IF only.

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