The brutal beating Imagine That took at the box office during its opening weekend (a comical $5.5 million) might just end the cynical run Eddie Murphy has been on for the last decade. Under the impression that parents will take their kids too see any old trash he churns out (because they are still high off his glory days), he has pumped out a litter of dreadful pictures. Pleasantly enough though, this isn’t one of them. More entertaining than funny, Imagine That is a charming little movie in which workaholic Evan Danielson (Murphy) gets embroiled in a corporate blood feud with a co-worker who goes by "Whitefeather" (Thomas Haden Church, funny), a flash in the pan investor who talks in dorky Native American speak ("There’s an old Indian saying: It’s not the paint that makes the warrior.").
So Evan does what anyone would do and turns to his neglected daughter and her imaginary friends for financial advice. Well actually invisible is more appropriate considering how accurate the stock tips are. Since said stock tips only speak the truth, Evan is soon put on the fast track to that scorching hot job he’s dreamed about since grad school. But this is a film seemingly with it’s back to the younger viewers in the audience. The imaginary world and friends are never seen or heard and there is an over abundance of time spent talking business. Adults might be entertained, but the target audience may get left behind.
The best thing about Imagine That is the way that it critiques the business world and it’s cold, uncaring ways. Evan is so entrenched in that world that he still hasn’t grasped the fact that what works for him there doesn’t work when he’s dealing with his daughter. This is really a sad story in which the father only comes to care about his daughter’s existence because she accidentally makes him a ton of money. As Olivia, Yara Shahidi earns her paycheck by looking adorable and holding her own against Murphy. Their bonding soon leads to bizarre behavior such as communicating through blankets and dancing ridiculous dances in public.
This is all in the name of money and there in lies the criticism – what won’t this man do to advance his career? But the activities presented are far more rational than those millions of Americans partake in every day, setting aside any sense of morality (I’m looking at you Bernie Madoff) and turning into zombies who think nothing of working eighty-hour weeks. This all leads to a sappy, predictably idiotic ending that aims to please everybody and appears lazily tacked on. Another major complaint arises from the first scene of the film, a flash-forward to the end of the film, only serving to eliminate any suspense later on. Judging by the multiple Beatles songs here (which are always welcome, mind), the director was more concerned with the soundtrack, which probably cost somewhere around $5.5 million. Perhaps we were simply too scarred last year by paying $12 to watch Meet Dave. But here the dirty work is done for you and we can report, as objectively as possible, that this is a good movie…if you can even imagine that.
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Nicole Arrie Parker, Thomas Hayden Church, Yara Shahidi, Ronny Cox
Director: Karey Kirkpatrick
Runtime: 107 Minutes