What If is the latest movie to tackle the question of whether a man and a woman can just be friends. Its subjects are Wallace (still, a year later, not able to get over a horrific breakup) and Chantry (an animator with a great boyfriend). Titled The F World everywhere except in the U.S. and the UK, the film is actually more deserving of the bland new title than the edgier original.
Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) meet at a party and fall madly in like with each other. He walks her home – where she reveals she has a great boyfriend, Ben (Rafe Spall).
At the same party, Wallace’s roommate and, apparently, only friends, Allan (Adam Driver), hooks up with the aggressively slutty Nicole (Mackenzie Davis). Before you know it, they’re getting married.
Meanwhile, the best Wallace has done is run into Chantry at a local repertory theater showing of The Princess Bride and, not long later, had dinner with Chantry and Ben – an occasion that features one of the very genuinely funny slapstick moments in the film. You’d almost think it was deliberate (the moment and the actual physical action).
When Ben’s job takes him to Dublin, he shows a lot of class in not asking Chantry to give up her animation job (which she clearly loves) just to move halfway around the world. Instead, he bought her an open ticket so she could come and visit him anytime she wanted to (which, of course, plays out exactly the way you’d think it would). He’s not just smart and appallingly handsome, he’s also considerate.
Then there’s Chantry’s sister, Dalia (Megan Park), who seems to be the only woman in the movie to recognize Wallace’s cuteness and makes a play for him that goes badly – to everyone’s mortification.
By the time Allan and Nicole take Wallace and chantry camping – and make off with their clothes – it’s become pretty obvious that Ben would make a great lead character in his own movie and none of these other characters is much worth our time.
So, when Chantry flies to Dublin, we pretty know what’s going to happen next – and that leads to the other supremely funny moment of the movie (and Wallace deserves it!).
And have I mentioned the bits of exceedingly twee animation that pop up at odd intervals? Yes, we get it. She’s an animator. Leave off already!
By the time What If rolls to a halt (no running frantically through an airport, thank goodness!), we’re left with an undeservingly happy couple whose previous high point, dialogue-wise, was discussing Elvis’ toilet habits and when one can eat one’s own $#!+, and when not.
Technically, the film is well made. Solid camera work, editing and design; a decent enough pace, and the cast are clearly working at a level well above the script. It would help matters considerably if Radcliffe and Kazan had any kind of chemistry.
In the end, What If is When Harry Met Sally without the charm, wit or fizz.
Final Grade: D
Photo courtesy CBS Films/eOne