The formula for a romantic comedy is simple: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, conflict prevents them from being together, drama is put in there, boy and girl fall in love, happily ever after. This has been done so many times over, but recently there haven’t been many legitimately great romantic comedies that manage to stand the test of time and shine over all of the other ones. “What If” is an example of how great romantic comedies can still be. Originally titled “The F Word,” this movie stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as two people in two different situations. Radcliffe’s Wallace has just dropped out of medical school and is currently single. Kazan’s Chantry is an animator living with her longtime boyfriend Ben and is currently being offered promotions at work. Wallace and Chantry meet at a party one night, and the chemistry begins flying like bullets in a western stand-off. Unfortunately Wallace can’t date Chantry, so he willingly sticks himself in the friend zone and the two become incredibly close.
So as you might be able to guess, the entire film follows the basic romantic comedy tropes, and the ending will go exactly as you would expect. However in the case of this movie, it really doesn’t matter whether or not you know the eventual outcome of the two leads. The main things that matter are whether the story is told well, the script is well written, and the two romantic leads have solid chemistry. Believe me when I say now that, for me at least, the film had all of that and more. I had such a big smile on my face while watching this movie that it almost hurt. “What If” might seem generic on the outside, but the bulk of the movie shows something with fantastic chemistry, a hilarious script, and a story that keeps the attention of its audience members, despite it being predictable and not the most original.
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are irresistible in the scenes when they share the screen. It’s not just because they’re talented actors and they’re instantly likable just by the sight of them together, but the dialogue that they fly off one another feels authentic and genuine while being touching and hilarious at the same time. Radcliffe is really proving himself to be a legitimately talented and smart actor in the sense that he’s successfully pushing himself away from his “Harry Potter” image. As for Kazan, I’ve always liked her screen presence and have been a fan of hers since “Ruby Sparks.” She has the type of spark that actresses like Brit Marling and Jennifer Lawrence have, which hopefully will take her to extensively great places in her career. Other actors featured in fantastic supporting roles here include Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, and Rafe Spall. All manage to put their own spin into the movie and make the roles their own. Having said that, it’s Radcliffe and Kazan’s performances that you’ll be thinking about when the movie ends.
When looking at the IMDB page for screenwriter Elan Mastai, the track record isn’t exactly the best. Movies that he has written in the past include “The Samaritan,” “MVP: Most Vertical Primate,” and the critically slammed Uwe Ball flick “Alone in the Dark.” Even director Michael Dowse’s track record isn’t the greatest, with his most critically successful film being the 2012 Canadian hockey comedy “Goon.” However, these two together have made something authentically true, and a true romantic comedy for the ages. The dialogue and story is something many can relate to, and Dowse’s direction is unique and creative in ways that I can’t say without ruining some of the film’s magic.
“What If” is something that I think audiences will grab onto and clutch tightly to their chests the way I did with “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” back in 2012. The jokes in this flick hit like bullets to the chest and burst with laughter as they make impact. The chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan is absolutely irresistible, and something I think many people could relate to. To top it off, the drama in this movie feels real, despite being as predictable as any romantic comedy out there. Despite the sheer predictability of it, I had a blast with “What If” and I cannot wait to see this movie again. Hell, I may even buy it when it comes out on Blu-Ray.
OVERALL GRADE: 9/10