Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"While Framestore and Cadence have notionally brought the various creatures to 'life' they've not got that vital spark one would hope for."

If might not entirely have a question for a title, but it raises them throughout. Not, sadly, because it's all that thought-provoking, but more about questions of intent.

John Krasinski writes and directs, and while it's a fifth for him in either seat it's only the fourth where he's filled both roles. The exceptions are The Hollars (directed, but did not write) and Promised Land (screenplay credit) for those in the big chair for any quizzes. There are some immediate and obvious shortcuts in the story: a dead mother for emotional heft, an adolescent girl for access to discussions of emotion, and occasional cut-aways to Krasinski to maintain tone and balance expenditures.

Does that last seem cynical? Krasinki's alternate-reality Marvel colleague Ryan Reynolds is running on screensaver mode, and while he's charming as default in a film whose credits include 9 ADR locations, he seems to be the only one actually phoning it in. There's a 'joke' in the casting that's basically rehashing one from Deadpool 2, but with less than maximum effort. I felt patronised as both halves of my age. To be clear, not as a person half my age, but as a 40-year old and a three-year old.

Bea (Cailey Fleming) has moved in with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw). That's to provide care while her father (multi-hyphenate Krasinski) is receiving medical treatment. Eventually she encounters Blossom (Waller-Bridge), Blue (Steve Carell), and the only other person who can see imaginary friends, Cal (Reynolds). Through a series of uplifting adventures, adults are given the chance to reconnect with childhood confidants and confidence. Alan Kim, as Benjamin, provides an opportunity for a comedy montage that involves various folk acting at an open door. The kids are no less famous than the adults, Kim was central to Minari and Fleming is already building a fan-convention signing-table retirement-package with roles as a young Loki, a young Rey, and the younger Grimes (Walking Dead, not Musk's ex).

Reynolds and Krasinski both probably benefit from working on something that their children will be able to see. I suspect those kids would rather watch Monsters Inc. While it's nice to hear from Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Blossom) and Steve Carell (Blue) they've both done more interesting work off-screen before. There's a coda after the credits bidding farewell to Louis Gossett Jr, playing an older teddy bear called Lewis. I don't think there was any motion capture there, and while Framestore and Cadence have notionally brought the various creatures to 'life' they've not got that vital spark one would hope for. They're there, but their 'there' isn't all there.

I'd love to argue that I'm not the target audience, but with references to The Karate Kid and as-mentioned a meta-joke based on a sequel to a comic-book movie I meet several demographic criteria. Michael Giacchino's score is emotionally didactic, but it pales in comparison to lines like "cue the violins" and topic-sentence scripting of the level of "nothing you love can ever be forgotten". It's not untrue, it's not without meaning, but it's not new, and it's not with much insight.

I had a wee wander after the film, via Google Maps, to check its geography. That I found my disbelief more troubled by views of a suspension bridge than a succession of whacky figures voiced by famous names. There was some fun after the fact trying to match characters like Gummy Bear or Robot or Ice to faces. I did find it amusing that there was discussion of a paucity of imagination in some of these, but it wasn't far off a talking lampshade.

As with a few films involving the invisible it blurs lines with a scene from an outsider's perspective. Admittedly, I doubt anyone around the lower age requirement will have seen Lovely Molly or Fight Club but the issue remains. If condenses, in places as sweet and sickly as milk. It might age a bit better, but that's uncertain.

In addition to astronauts, plants, fruits, there are two sensible cars depicted. They're a Saab 900 and a Volvo XC90. A reasonable choice for families who had children when I was a wean and for people my age who now have children themselves. Like the film itself they're safe, reliable, but not particularly exciting, even boring.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2024
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If packshot
A young girl who goes through a difficult experience begins to see everyone's imaginary friends who have been left behind as their real-life friends have grown up.

Director: John Krasinski

Writer: John Krasinski

Starring: Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fiona Shaw, Steve Carell, Louis Gossett Jr, Alan Kim

Year: 2024

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: US, Canada


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