Imagine That (2009)
Release Date: June 12th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Karey Kirkpatrick Actors: Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, Nicole Ari Parker, Ronny Cox, Martin Sheen
ddie Murphy frequently goes as overboard as Jim Carrey or Robin Williams, but “Imagine That” manages to have just the right amount of silly. It’s a family-friendly movie that presents equal doses of immaturity and seriousness, making the event more evenly entertaining than one might expect from seeing the obnoxiously childish trailer. Performances on a whole are sincere (subdued for Murphy) and convincing; unlike similarly plotted stories, such as Disney’s “The Game Plan,” “Imagine That” never gets to the point of annoying, which is becoming a more and more difficult feat for formulaic yet effective children’s features.
Focused, driven, and always in control, Evan Danielson (Eddie Murphy) is a financial wizard, organizing and leading his many clients in the direction of monetary prosperity. This doesn’t leave much time for his seven-year-old daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi), who is socially detached and dependent on her security blanket (named Goo-Gaa), which transports her to an imaginary world of princesses and dragons. It’s all in her mind; but when Evan plays along, Olivia’s invisible friends miraculously produce accurate advice on stocks, investments, and insider tips. Suddenly, he’s immersed in his daughter’s invented fantasy, forcing himself to redefine his relationship with Olivia and the meaning of real success.
“I imagine it was a lot of fun to watch,” Evan remarks after undergoing his inevitable early-movie mental breakdown. That might be a slightly generous statement in regards to the entire film, which maintains a worthwhile level of lighthearted humor and father-daughter relationship-mending drama. It isn’t overly preachy, even though at times it’s sickly sweet; Murphy’s likeable Evan is a man who wanted kids but probably shouldn’t have had one, especially considering his relatable lack of time and subsequent failure to connect with his daughter. Learning to be a better parent through success and defeat, with initial manipulation followed by quality bonding, presents a process that is understandably generic. The blueprints for this family flick aren’t original, but definitely more watchable than similar exploits that can’t seem to include any mature bits for older crowds (as in the parental audience assumed to be present with children).
Supporting character actor Ronny Cox plays a role comparable to his famous villain turns in “Robocop” and “Total Recall,” and Thomas Haden Church steals many scenes as Johnny Whitefeather, a competitive financial executive who exaggeratingly mocks Native American culture with creatively hilarious quotes and unorthodox meditative methods for gaining stock market knowledge. “It’s not the paint that makes the warrior,” he advises Evan, along with constant references to the “dream sparrow,” insulting “little elk” nicknames, and other funny Indian riffs. He’s quite convincingly phony. There’s nothing artificial about the film as a whole, however, which makes it quality family material, even if it doesn’t exude complete originality.
– Mike Massie