Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Bing-Bong memorial weekend on The Audient

I watched two movies involving imaginary friends over the weekend. It started out as sort of an accident, and then I leaned into it.

The first was Jeff Wadlow's Imaginary, the Jason Blum-produced quickie horror on the idea of an imaginary friend (embodied in a teddy bear, though it's a malevolent spirit with multiple forms) trying to kidnap its kid into imaginaryland and treat violently anyone who gets in the way. With its PG-13 rating, it doesn't give us much of that violence, and only a few images that really qualify as scary. That was Saturday night. 

Once I realized that John Krasinski's IF had also opened this week -- at first thinking there was no new big Hollywood opening, which would be strange for the third week in May -- I made sure to get in a viewing with my younger son on Sunday afternoon. (First checking to make sure it did not, in fact, have anything in common with the genre of Imaginary, which would be too intense for a ten-year-old.)

Bing-Bong, the divisive imaginary friend in Inside Out (I liked him, others did not), actually gets name-checked in Imaginary. The teenage daughter (there's always a teenage daughter), in trying to understand the concept that they're dealing with, likens it not once, but twice, to the Richard Kind-voiced part elephant, part cat, part dolphin. 

IF doesn't mention Bing-Bong because that would be too on the nose, and because it's not the kind of movie to call attention ironically to its own references. But the idea itself could not be lifted any more from Inside Out. The imaginary friends here are astray after being forgotten by the kid who invented them, requiring them to be matched up with a new kid, or else -- well, we don't really know, but the main one (voice of Steve Carell) believes he will disappear, which is what does in fact happen to Bing-Bong when he's forgotten. (Oops, spoiler alert for Inside Out.)

The thing these movies have in common most is that I did not really like either of them.

I feel bad dissing IF, since it's obvious Krasinski made it for his own kids (age 8 and 10) and that he was trying to give us something with lots of heart and joy. IF's greatest sin is that it's shmaltzy, that Carell is annoying, that it has a bad script, and that Michael Giacchino's score is over the top. Okay, I guess that's four sins. But it isn't a bad movie, if you consider two stars out of five to be that cutoff line.

Imaginary got only half a star less from me, but I did think it was actually bad. Wadlow's direction is poor and the idea gets really unhinged from what could have been a small, creepy concept to something involving fantasy worlds in a person's mind -- the kind of thing you would see, and do see, in IF.

As much as I might like to make this Bing-Bong memorial month rather than Bing-Bong memorial weekend, it doesn't look as though Kind's character will be revived in the upcoming Inside Out 2, as Kind is not listed on IMDB. 

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