Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir-scr John Krasinski
prd John Krasinski, Ryan Reynolds, Andrew Form, Allyson Seeger
with Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, Fiona Shaw, John Krasinski, Alan Kim, Liza Colon-Zayas, Bobby Moynihan, Catharine Daddario
voices Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr, Emily Blunt, Maya Rudolph, Awkwafina, Christopher Meloni, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Richard Jenkins, Keegan-Michael Key
release US/UK 17.May.24
24/US Paramount 1h44

carell shaw krasinskisw

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reynolds, fleming and friends
There's a remarkably sweet tone to this fresh kids' movie, which has echoes of Monsters Inc, Toy Story and Men in Black in its tale about a parallel world of IFs (imaginary friends) and the people who believe in them, until they forget. Actor-filmmaker John Krasinski skilfully adds bright and witty details to lighten the emotional plot. And the film can't help but bring out the child in us.
Moving to New York after her mother's untimely death, 12-year-old Bea (Fleming) is staying with her grandmother (Shaw) while her father (Krasinski) has a heart operation. Fiercely independent and curious, Bea discovers Calvin (Reynolds) living upstairs in Grandma's building with two fantastical creatures: giant purple furball Blue (Carell) and Betty Boop-like bug Blossom (Waller-Bridge). Taking Bea into a secret realm under Coney Island, Calvin also introduces her to veteran bear Lewis (Gossett), who inducts Bea into their imaginary reality, He also encourages her to help retired IFs rekindle their relationships with their now-grown, unbelieving children.
At the centre of this is Bea's personal journey, as she confronts her fears about losing her father and being alone. Young viewers will be delighted as things twist and turn along the way, although older ones won't be caught out by the narrative's key surprises. But the film is still delightful, especially these fully realised IFs, which come in a range of wildly inventive shapes, including a unicorn (Blunt), bubble (Awkwafina) and ice cube (Cooper).

Fleming's open emotionality makes Bea thoroughly engaging, pulling the audience into her mind's eye in a way that lets us see things she can't. And her cheeky humour adds spark to several riotously hilarious set-pieces, building a terrific push-and-pull chemistry with Reynold's charming but reluctant mentor. While Krasinski's role seems rather vague and flippant, Shaw is simply wonderful as the over-compensating granny. And the extended A-list voice cast has a lot of fun with the nutty fantasy figures.

Obviously, the film's main attraction is its astounding visuals, and Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is perhaps even more glorious than the digital trickery that fills most scenes. As the goofy antics keep us smiling, the far more serious underlying plot holds the attention, adding a dark edge that's surprisingly resonant, at least for grown-ups in the audience. It also helps ground the sillier elements in something that's properly authentic. And best of all is how it celebrates the importance of having a sense of wonder, no matter how old we are.

cert u some themes, language 11.May.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall