What If (The F Word)

Directed By: Michael Dowse

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Megan Park, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, and Rafe Spall

I'm not a perfect model of health, but sometimes we invite health issues with the things we consume.  Take famed balladeer Luther Vandross.  During his lifetime, the R&B singer concocted a devilish delight known as the Luther Burger (also known as the doughnut burger).  This hamburger / cheeseburger is slapped right between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts rather than a burger bun.  That's an open invitation to a shorter life span.  To a lesser extent, the same can be said for Elvis Presley.  He reportedly flew across the country one night to purchase 22 Fool's Gold sandwiches for himself and his buddies.  For those of you unaware of this culinary sin, it's a loaf of bread covered in butter, baked to perfection, and stuffed with a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and a pound of bacon.  This is the sort of dining that gets you a fast pass to the grave.  Moreover, these are the sorts of interesting things I've learned while watching Irish-Canadian romantic comedy What If.

Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) has been single for almost a year now.  A med school dropout and a Toronto native, Wallace saw that he and his ex-girlfriend were becoming his parents and wanted out.  Both were almost doctors, and his girlfriend was cheating on him.  It's needless to say that Wallace opted to end their relationship.  One night he's at a party hosted by his best friend Allan (Adam Driver).  While Allan hooks up with a new girl named Nicole (Mackenzie Davis), Wallace ends up meeting Allan's cousin Chantry (Zoe Kazan).  They have an instant connection, and Wallace walks her home after both sneak out of the party.  Wallace nearly closes the deal when he gets Chantry's number.  However, she has a boyfriend, Ben (Rafe Spall).

Once Wallace learns about Ben, he goes home and tries to forget all about Chantry.  He even throws away her phone number.  As fate would have it, he runs into Chantry again when they both go to the movies alone for a screening of The Princess Bride.  Again, Wallace walks her home, and they become friends from there.  Believing that no man and woman can be just friends and recognizing the potential for disaster striking with his cousin and best friend, Allan recommends that Wallace be very careful with this new friendship.  Naturally, feelings develop between Wallace and Chantry, but neither of them will admit it.  Opportunity starts knocking when Ben moves to Dublin.  Meanwhile, Chantry's sister Dalia (Megan Park) begins hitting on Wallace, and things heat up between Allan and Nicole.

What If is certainly an entertaining flick.  However, it falls into the same trap that's led to the decline in romantic comedies in the first place.  It's formulaic and does nothing outside the box to break the mold of the genre.  It literally follows every play in the playbook and seems like nothing more than a chronologically condensed remake of When Harry Met Sally... with Millennials. On top of this, the film sacrifices a bit too much authenticity for silly, saccharine horseplay (i.e. animated angels and butterflies flying all over screen) and clearly feigned cynicism (i.e. Daniel Radcliffe pretending he doesn't believe in love).  Still, it's an enjoyable film with plenty of comedy.

Since the premise isn't terribly original, What If rests squarely on the shoulders of Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan whose on screen chemistry must fuel the film.  Though things start off a bit lukewarm for the two romantic co-stars, they eventually find their zany rhythm and heat up on screen.  Because most of their interactions on camera are as "friends", Radcliffe and Kazan's chemistry must be something that naturally boils over on screen but doesn't smack moviegoers in the face with its obviousness.  That's a tough act to pull off, but Radcliffe and Kazan mostly succeed in doing so.  They're not perfect on screen, but they're good enough to keep us enchanted and amused.

What If is not the movie that's going to reinvigorate the romantic comedy genre.  It is the movie, however, that will teach you about the heart attack in a loaf known as Fool's Gold and will entertain you along the way.  What If gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of mimosas with this one.