FILM REVIEW: IF – an all-star family drama about imaginary friends

With the National Sea Life Centre and Legoland Discovery Centre facing each other across the historic canal network, Westside is a great place for children to develop vivid imaginations.

Especially when you add the jumping water fountains next to the Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square.

If you are ever near any of these larger-than-life destinations, you will most likely see children with carefree smiles on their faces … with many of them carrying a favourite toy, too.

This week’s big screen release captures the sheer joy and importance of such special imaginary relationships and has lots of screenings at both of our super 12-screen multiplexes Odeon Broadway Plaza and Cineworld Broad Street, where Saturday and Sunday screenings begin as early as 9am!

IF (U, 104 mins). With her father not well, a 12-year-old girl called Bea (Cailey Fleming, superb) develops a coping ability which enables her to see the imaginary friends that grown-ups seem to have forgotten about.

Father of two John Krasinski (A Quiet Place) plays Bea’s Dad in a film he has also written and directed. Krasinksi clearly has a gift for roping in big names – there’s Ryan Reynolds on screen as showman Cal, with stellar voice talents playing the ‘friends’ ranging from Krasinski’s real-life wife Emily Blunt (Unicorn) to Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Blossom), Steve Carell (Blue), Sam Rockwell (Guardian Dog) and Awkwafina (Bubble).

Not forgetting, Bradley Cooper (Ice), George Clooney (Spaceman), Matt Damon (Flower) and the film’s tribute to the late Louis Gossett Jr (Lewis).

Cinematography is by Schindler’s List Oscar winner Janusz Kamiński – who shot Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One right here in Birmingham during the summer of 2016.

Verdict *** There are so many ‘IF’ characters, one or more is bound to make parents remember their own forgotten favourite toys – and to question what did happen to them.

But does IF’s gentle pacing mean it should be seen as a Pixar-style live action film with adult themes aimed at kids – or has it been designed more to make mums and dads reminisce?

Either way, there aren’t too many U-certificate films for families to enjoy together these days, so this story with some fun creature features (think Monsters Inc, Willy Wonka, Roger Rabbit etc) delivering mild jump scares is all the more welcome for that.

Especially because IF is also aiming to offer a far more gentle introduction to the important but tricky themes like grief than the shocking moment of death in Disney’s 1937 animation Bambi, also still rated a U.

THE BLUE ANGELS (U, 93 mins). It hasn’t been previewed, but this Prime video documentary about the acrobatic stunts performed by the US Navy flight demonstration squadron is clearly aimed at fans of Tom Cruise and his Top Gun films and similarly references past tragedies with sensitivity.

You can feel the ‘whoosh!’ of take-offs and turn 360 degrees in Cineworld Broad Street’s giant IMAX screen from 10.40am on Saturday and Sunday (May 18/19), where tickets will be £11.69 for children or £15.69 for adults.

Pictures: IF, Paramount Pictures; The Blue Angels, Prime.


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