Entertainment and Arts

Ryan Reynolds in ‘If’ Brings Childhood Imagination to Life

By: Russ Matthews

What if you had an imaginary friend who was a big friend of Ryan Reynolds and took you along to see this movie about imaginary friends?

What would he think of this storyline? Since there has been little on offer for families this year, there would be a hope that both of you would fall in love with this story that brings our childhood fantasies to life. Writer/director John Krasinski (A Quiet Place, The Office) takes us into a world where fantasy and reality collide as the former imaginary friends of the world attempt to come back into the lives of the children of the world.

Bea (Cailey Fleming) has gone through the highs and lows of her young life, and at the age of 12, she has left behind childish things and has attempted to grow up. Yet, she is confronted with her past and the realm of fantastical creatures that inhabit the lives of children around the globe, IFs (Imaginary friends). When she returns to live with her grandmother while her father (John Krasinski) is in hospital, the young girl meets Cal (Ryan Reynolds), the neighbour who lives upstairs, trying to match old imaginary friends with new children. The pair go on a journey to meet and connect these whimsical and loving creatures with those who need their love and care.

IF has something to offer for those out there yearning for a family film during this cinematic season. Still, it might be different than most would expect. Krasinski and Reynolds stated that this creative venture was meant to be a Pixar film coming to life on the big screen. Yet, as the story unfolds, this world becomes more dramatic and methodical than the typical animated film as it dives deeply into the imaginations of young and old. As it introduces so many wonderful creatures voiced by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars (Steve Carrell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Louis Gossett Jr., Matt and more), the story becomes weighed down with all of their stories and causes us to lose sight of Bea’s own journey. All that to say that the outstanding animation and nostalgic creativity cannot be denied in this film. Still, the story gets lost along the way at times.

Not to be misunderstood, this is a heart-warming and endearing tale of childhood memories, along with a beautiful expression of the love of family. Yet, this review would hope to manage audience expectations since this movie is less about relying on the comedic antics of Ryan Reynolds and more about seeing this world through the eyes of Cailey Fleming’s character. As things unfold, her story is less about Monster Inc. and tied more to the first 15 minutes of Up or the deeply retrospective messaging of Soul. A screenplay that is family-friendly but will connect with the parents in the audience more than their children.

IF has a magical element from unexpected places, similar to the movie’s creatures, so it may struggle to connect with the world’s children. Still, John Krasinski created an imaginative universe that families should enter, but with managed expectations of how this tale would touch parts of their hearts differently and get them talking about their need for love from their real-life friends.

Reel Dialogue: Is God a friend we leave behind when we get older?

The God of this universe is very real, but since we cannot see him directly, many tend to forget about him until we need him. Unlike the spiritual creatures of IF, God continues on in the lives of those who believe all over this world he created despite people’s willingness to accept his existence. Yet throughout this film, the thought that kept coming to mind was what people really were searching for within this film, which was the love of God.

Unicorns, alligators and teddy bears are lovely to think of as a friend when you are a child. Still, the existential cry from this film was to find someone who would love these individuals through the challenging and lonely times of life. Interestingly, God is willing to offer this love, care and mercy at all times; all you need to do is accept that he exists, believe that he is the God of all of your life and know that his eternal love is offered through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus.

This isn’t imagined my friend, God is real and there for you now.

‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.’ – 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Reach out to us at Third Space to discuss how you can know the real God of the universe.


Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie stills

About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.

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