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What If (2014)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 11/25/2014

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/19/2014

Those of us who are mere mortals with work-a-day jobs can only imagine what it's like to be a wealthy actor. It's very easy for us to look at someone who is a multi-millionaire and wonder why they simply don't retire and enjoy themselves. But, some actors do actually enjoy the craft and want to work. However, some run into trouble when they've made a name for themselves playing a certain character or type of character. Can they ever overcome this pigeonholing? And, again, if they actually don't need to work, why would they try? These questions come to mind which watching Daniel Radcliffe spread his wings beyond the Harry Potter films in What If.

Radcliffe stars in What If as Wallace, a guy who is down on his luck. He abandoned his medical school path after being dumped by a classmate, and now works in a job for which he has no passion. While at a party thrown by his friend, Allan (Adam Driver), Wallace meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) and they immediately hit it off. After spending the night talking, Wallace walks Chantry home to where she lives with her boyfriend, Ben (Rafe Spall), who works as an attorney for the United Nations. Wallace is shocked by this revelation, but he agrees to be "friends" with Zoe and they do a lot of things together, as Ben travels a great deal. But, as Wallace and Chantry spend more and more time together, a definite bond forms. Can this have an ending where no one gets hurt?

Again, if the Internet is to be believed, Daniel Radcliffe earned enough money doing the Harry Potter series to remain very comfortable for quite some time. But, he continues to pursue acting, and he's clearly picking diverse roles which separate him from the role of the boy wizard, without going overboard, like some Disney Channel actresses which I won't name, and plunging into "adult" roles. Having done two horror movies, a drama, and with What If, he's trying his hand at a romantic-comedy. (It must be nice to have the luxury to experiment like that.) And based solely on the trailer for What If, it looked as if Radcliffe had backed the wrong horse, as the movie looked incredibly clunky and cliched. One had to wonder why someone who would have their pick of scripts would have chosen this particular movie.

Thankfully, this is a case where the trailer was very misleading...sort of. The plot of the movie was well-represented and the story is exactly what we think it's going to be -- Nice guy gets placed in the "Friend Zone" with a girl that he really likes. In some ways, the movie is an updated version of When Harry Met Sally, as we watch a couple who should be together cross paths. And, like that movie, What If gets a lot of mileage out of the supporting cast, as Adam Driver appears to be in his own movie at times, and he gets a lot of help from Mackenzie Davis, who plays his girlfriend.

The movie overcomes the obvious pitfalls of the genre and its familiar story two ways. First of all, the characters here are all likeable. Movies like this usually make the mistake of making someone too "big", too mean, too something, so that we cringe every time that they come on-screen. We don't get that here. Allan and Nicole may be a bit over the top, but they are also funny and engaging. The best movie was to make Ben fairly amiable. We want Chantry to be with Wallace, but we don't hate the fact that she's with Ben, save for the fact that he's never around. Despite the fact that Zoe Kazan looks like she's 13 years old, she's not annoying in this role. (Although she plays the Zooey Deschanel-esque "Quirky Girl" role to a T.) The movie also gets a boost from the presence of Director Michael Dowse, who approaches this project with confidence. Having made the goofy comedy Goon and seen his project Take Me Home Tonight get shelved, Dowse has given the film a very even keel and well-balanced tone.

What If is one of those movies which I sort of dreaded going in, as I wasn't in the mood to slog through a sub-par rom-com. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to be immediately sucked into the movie, and to find myself laughing and rooting for the characters. Again, the story isn't very original, so be prepared for a certain lack of surprises, but give it a shot and you'll find that Harry Potter has some range.

What If introduces the perfect pairing for nachos on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, although some shots are a tad soft. The depth is acceptable for a DVD. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The bulk of the audio comes from the front and center channels, but the party scene and some street scenes provide some surround and subwoofer effects.

The What If DVD contains only two extras. "Blurred Lines" (4 minutes) is an interview with Radcliffe and Kazan in which they explain the plot intercut with clips from the film. "Opposites Attract" (4 minutes) has the cast commenting on and complimenting one another.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long