IMAGINE THAT: 1 ½ STARS
I find Eddie Murphy infuriating. It used to be that you could count on Eddie to raise a smile or two at the movies. I loved his silly giggle in Beverly Hills Cop, his version of Greatest Love of All in Coming to America, and the “My mother was like Clint Eastwood with a shoe…” routine from Delirious is one of the funniest monologues ever, but that was when Eddie and I were both much younger.
Now the prospect of a new Eddie Murphy movie is as welcome as a case of gingivitis. That makes me angry. He may be the biggest, most talented star in Hollywood who consistently makes the worst movies. Don’t get me wrong, nobody hits a home run every time but Murphy’s recent batting average is worse than most.
Meet Dave, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Haunted Mansion and Norbit are among the most annoying movies ever made. His latest, Imagine That, doesn’t plumb the depths of Pluto Nash or Norbit, but is only a slight improvement on his recent output.
Murphy is Evan, a high powered investment banker; a smart guy who makes deals all day long at work, but a terrible father who has no idea how to deal with his adorable daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi) or ex wife Trish (Nicole Ari Parker). When a new employee at work with the unlikely name of Johnny White Feather (Thomas Haden Church) threatens his top dog status Evan turns to an unorthodox method of predicting the stock market—his daughter’s imaginary friends. With the aid of her security—or should that be securities—blanket he gets hot tips that get him noticed by the upper brass who are looking for someone to take over the company’s west coast division. Evan uses the time spent divining market fluctuations with his daughter and her imaginary friends to repair their broken relationship, but he’s still all business. That is until he realizes what’s really important in life.
Imagine That is a family fantasy movie that is more cute than actually funny. It’s also more predictable than funny. In fact, it’s a lot of things, but funny isn’t really one of them. There are a few laughs sprinkled throughout, but they are few and far between and Thomas Haden Church as the politically incorrect but rather amusing character White Feather gets most of them. He speaks in faux Native-American lingo, a mix of spiritual mumbo jumbo and tossed off lines like “the white fire grid you call the internet.” His early scenes are some of the film’s highlights.
Murphy hands in a solid performance as Evan, solid but not terribly interesting. He has a couple of funny moments and one very cute pancake making scene but there isn’t much going on here. He’s better than this and it’s disappointing to see him waste his talent on films that don’t require him to do much more than show up and cash a pay cheque.
Imagine That is forgettable family entertainment that’s better than Norbit and some other recent Murphy titles, but that isn’t saying much. It’s like being the sweetest lemon in the bushel; it still leaves a sour taste in your mouth.