Eddie Fucking Murphy. Those three words, all by themselves, easily declare all there is to know about Murphy’s latest cinematic piece of crap, Imagine That. After all, it’s becoming all too formulaic for a film critic to declare a plot to be “all too predictable.” Similarly, it’s a nearly impossible task to write a serious review of a film led by an actor/comedian who fails to take his very own career seriously. Murphy has long since abandoned his previous comic genius and largely settled for bullshit family films, including such atrocities as Meet Dave and Daddy Day Care. Now, Murphy dials it down several notches in the attempted humor department, so Imagine That plays out a lot like The Game Plan, that is, after subtracting the laughs, the goodwill, and the sex-on-legs leading man. Director Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach) tries his hand at live-action and ends up with a largely unimaginative replay of the typical father-out-of-water clichés (i.e., the almost-missed ballet recital, the obligatory Chuck E. Cheese pit o’ ball-filled doom). Altogether, Imagine That runs a very long 1 hour, 47 minutes and is rated PG for mild language and sheer boredom.
In Imagine That, Murphy plays the quintessential absentee father, Evan Danielson, a workaholic financial executive and yuppie who has, inexplicably, survived his breed’s extinction. Olivia Danielson (Yara Shahidi) is Evan’s adorable daughter, who is unnaturally attached to her security blanked, a.k.a. “Goo-gah.” Evan’s also acquired an estranged wife, Trish (Nicole Ari Parker), who screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson created for the sole purpose of illustrating that Evan was once as crappy a husband as he is a father. Evan finds himself forced to be the sole caretaker (for an entire week!) of his daughter, who largely spends her leisure time with an assortment of make-believe companions. Mostly, Olivia is a source of irritation to her father until her imaginary princess friends (speaking though the blanket) begin to hand out strikingly accurate investment advice. Naturally, Evan takes notice, and, together, he and Olivia gather more investment tips, and as Evan’s career blossoms, he and Olivia’s father-daughter relationship begins to bloom as well. This leads to the irksome notion that Olivia is only worth spending time with when she and her blanket are providing invaluable career advice, but I can’t even work up the venom to properly address this utter wrongness.
Meanwhile, Evan faces stiff work competition from Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church, who used to be funny too), an unlikely Native American seer who impresses clients with such classic moves as by plucking bits of cloud from out of the sky and reading tea leaves before handing out his latest stock advice. Naturally, it turns out that Whitefeather is just as full of shit as Murphy is, but everything in this film is so dull and largely inoffensive that even this office rivalry fails to provide static electricity. Further, children will be turned off by the film’s unnecessary overindulgence within a buffet of finance terminology. Even adults will tune out for this drivel, and, despite the current financial crisis, I can’t help but think that this theme is well past its sell date.
Oddly, Imagine That asks its audience to entirely imagine the magical aspects of the story. These alleged princesses are imaginary friends of Olivia, and they remain as such, for none of their magic ever reveals itself to the audience. While it’s kind of refreshing to see a film that doesn’t pimp out the CGI effects and require actors to mime along with chipmunks and various other roadkill, this isn’t necessarily what audiences of family films want. If people want pseudo-heartfelt performances, they can get that from a prime-time television film. In theaters, people don’t want to plunk down the cash and then be forced to use their own resources to help create the story. However, that’s not the even the worst aspect of Imagine That’s laziness, for, much too predictably, Evan realizes the error of his ways and easily disposes of the obvious catch-22, that is, the motive for which Even uses to invest quality time with Olivia. The screenplay never really concerns itself with whether Evan is merely bonding with his daughter to help his career or because he sort of wants to spend time with her. It all just happily works out, you know, unlike the Eddie Murphy’s career.
C’mon Eddie, are you really that financially hard up (too many collective child support payments, perhaps) that you can’t bother to make a careful selection for your next project? Dude, just sit down, put your dick in your pants, stop wookin’ pa nub in all da wong paces, get a better agent, and actually read through a pile of scripts. Believe it or not, there are films out there that don’t involve pulling on yet another fat suit when the latest coat of paint upon the absentee father act fails to hold. Let’s face it, these options just aren’t working out for you lately.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.