What If


What If Review

With his first romantic-comedy, Daniel Radcliffe proves adept at delivering snappy dialogue and generating strong chemistry with his costars, so it's frustrating that the film is never remotely believable. Director Michael Dowse and writer Elan Mastai find some cleverly original angles on the genre, but never seem sure whether this is silly slapstick or darker black comedy. They also indulge in several appallingly corny plot points that would only happen like this if they were written by a screenwriter.

Radcliffe plays Wallace, a British guy living in Toronto. After a bad break-up he has dropped out of med school and let his life drift aimlessly, but now his best pal Allan (Adam Driver) is tired of his moping around. So he introduces Wallace to his cousin Chantry (Zoe Kazan), and the two hit it off. The problem is that Chantry has a lovely boyfriend, Ben (Rafe Spall), so just wants to be friends. Wallace is smitten but pretends that this is fine. And this causes a serious problem as they get to know each other over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Allan has his own fast-moving relationship with Nicole (Mackenzie Davis), and he urges Wallace to make a move when Ben is transferred to Dublin for six months. The question is whether Chantry feels the same way about him.

Dowse has always been good at finding the sharper edges of humour in any scene (see Fubar or Goon), but this film has a squishy sentimental centre that threatens to undo it at every turn. There are also several goofy moments that strain credibility, such as when Wallace and Chantry are forced to share a sleeping bag naked. Meanwhile, the characters are so perky that they're somewhat exhausting. The actors seem to be trying desperately to make us like them in every scene, and sometimes this works simply because they are genuinely engaging. But the best moments are when Radcliffe hesitates awkwardly or explores the darker side of his longing, or when Kazan reveals the doubt behind her super-cute eyes.

The snappy filmmaking style also allows for some refreshingly inappropriate humour to explode here and there, as well as some nicely animated sequences that spring from Chantry's work as a cartoonist. So it's irritating that the plot is so contrived. Based on Mastai's play Toothpaste and Cigars, the story gyrates through so many wildly implausible events that by the time it reaches its final act nothing feels remotely organic. It's enjoyable to spend 100 minutes in the presence of these lively people, but there's nothing about this film that strikes a nerve.

Rich Cline

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What If

Facts and Figures

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 98 mins

In Theaters: Friday 15th August 2014

Box Office USA: $3.5M

Distributed by: CBS Films


Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Fresh: 77 Rotten: 34

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: David Gross, Macdara Kelleher, Andre Rouleau, Jesse Shapira, Marc Stephenson

Starring: as Ben Walker, as Wendy Walker