Eddie Murphy’s career path is an odd one – a former stand-up turned 80s action star turned biggest star on the planet, he reinvented himself in the 90s as a kids' movie actor – a somewhat unpredictable move given the rather in your face and decidedly un-PC nature of his earlier comedy.
It was a move that, however unexpected, proved fruitful with Murphy re-establishing himself as a Hollywood star and even muscling his way into an Oscar nomination for 2006’s Dreamgirls. But for every Academy nod, and for very box office-slaying Nutty Professor, there is a Norbit or Meet Dave in the background. Thankfully, Imagine That falls somewhere in between the two – a good natured, pleasant mannered comedy with its heart is in the right place, but which falls short of the inspiration needed to hold the attention of today’s kids.
Murphy is Evan, a work-obsessed divorcee who is more concerned with impressing the city bigwigs than caring for his daughter, which is causing little Olivia (a too-cute-for-words Shahidi) some problems – chiefly the inability to relinquish her security blanket (attempts to remove it invariably end in screaming of the highest pitch) and her ever-present imaginary friends. Things start going wrong for Evan at work when the new hotshot on the block, Hayden Church’s "Indian" Johnny Whitefeather, begins snagging all the good deals. Lucky for Evan, Olivia’s imaginary pals start coming up with some sterling investment banking advice. This leaves Evan with a tough choice to make – his daughter’s happiness, or closing the big deal?
Sweet and sincere, and staying the right side of schmaltz, Imagine That is well meaning but the "work versus family" premise is tired (how many on-screen workaholics have been forced to give up their mobile phones for the love of twinkly-eyed offspring?), and it is one whose outcome is never ever in any doubt. Murphy is on entertaining enough form, despite doing too much acting with his eyebrows, but Solomon's and Matheson’s script talks far too much mumbo jumbo banking jargon, which will leave kids baffled, and too many of its intended quirks and oddities fall wide of the mark. Despite its intentions, there is simply too little of the fantasy involved; where it wants to be extravagant and magical, Imagine That is too much of a plain Jane.
EXTRAS *** A pretty decent package for such a meh film. There's an audio commentary with director Kirkpatrick and star Shahidi; a set tour with Shahidi; five behind-the-scenes feaurettes (A Playground of the Mind, Getting the Part, Star Blanket: Native American Influence, The King and His Jesters, and What Were They Really Saying?); two sets of outtakes; and deleted scenes.