Synopsis 15 years ago, Ben Walker (Kevin Sorbo) left his college sweetheart Wendy (Kristy Swanson) and his calling to be a preacher to pursue a business opportunity. Now with a high-paying executive gig, a trophy fiancé and a new Mercedes, he hasn't considered a family nor felt the need to set foot in a church.
But God has other plans. While on a thrill ride outside the city, his new car mysteriously breaks down and he meets an angel disguised as a tow truck driver named Mike (John Ratzenberger). Mike claims God sent him to show Ben what his life would be like if he had followed his true calling.
Ben wakes up in the middle of domestic chaos as his wife and daughters (including the Disney Channel's Debby Ryan) are getting ready for church. Turns out Ben is the new pastor.
Watch Out for the Surprises What If… is a blend of The Family Man (man wakes up married to old girifriend with a family) and It's a Wonderful Life (a chance to see your life with different choices) with a little bit of Mercy Streets (someone suddenly expected to be a preacher who has no idea what he's doing) thrown in for good measure. At one point or another, most of us wonder what it would be like to have a "do-over," a Mulligan, or a chance to change something about the past, and What If… gives us another idea what that could be like.
On one level it's a pretty predictable tale. Of course Ben will fall in love with Wendy again, and of course he will have a cute little daughter who will love him and make him want to be a dad, as well as a teenager who really doesn't like him. But don't get too settled into your predictions, because just when you think you know how it's going to end, the writers surprise you. That was one of the more pleasant surprises of this film.
Good Cast with Well-Written Characters Another pleasant surprise was the appeal of the cast and the way the characters were written. John Ratzenberger, the darling of Pixar Pictures, plays an angel with an acerbic wit who quickly puts Ben in his place when Ben gets just a bit uppity about the fact that God sent an angel to work with him. He doesn't have pat answers for Ben and he doesn't make things easy for him; this angel is not quite what you'd expect.
Ben and Wendy (Sorbo and Swanson) have nice chemistry as a couple, and you really want to see their marriage work and their ending happy. Even though he suddenly has two daughters, Ben doesn't seem to have as difficult a time with instant fatherhood as he does instant marriage.
Under Dallas Jenkins' (Midnight Clear) deft direction, the end result is an enjoyable, lighthearted film with a nice balance of comedy and drama, a little bit of romance and a good message about finding, and following, your true purpose in life.
Rating What If… is rated PG.
Courtesy of the director, Angela screened a promotional copy of What If…
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