Whether he’s been trying to or not, Eddie Murphy has done a good job of throwing his career away for the second time in recent years. After storming onto the scene in the early 1980s with a regular role on Saturday Night Live and the start of the Beverly Hills Cop series and then re-invigorating what became a period of slack roles in the late 1990s, an Academy Award nomination for his performance in Dreamgirls should have been the jumping board for even greater, and more serious, success. Since then, however, Murphy has followed up 2006’s Oscar nomination with Norbit, Meet Dave and Shrek The Third, two of which push high of all-time worst ever movie lists, and the other a low-grade money making sell-out. Optimists will tell you Imagine That is the sweet child-friendly film to pull back waning fans, but whether their heads are in the crowds is another question all together. The concept at least, is something new.
Dropping Murphy in the shoes of investment banker Evan Danielson, whom on a similarly downward spiral, finds advice and inspiration from the most unexpected of corners. With the help apparently magical towel and three imaginary friends, Evan is given market recommendations from his daughter (Shahidi). Working together, Evan quickly works his way up to the top of the company but when the owner declares he will be leaving, he faces a fight with scheming colleague Johnny Whitefeather (Haden Church) to fill the role.
While this is a marked improvement on his recent horror-shows, Imagine That is far from the film to perk up Eddie Murphy’s lagging reputation. The mere concept is a little ridiculous; a children’s film about finance, and though it does provide some potentially funny and entertaining moment, the promise is some way of being fulfilled. Any banking quips will go straight over children’s heads and aren’t witty enough to entertain adults. Furthermore, the often slapstick comedy hardly raises a laugh, and neither does Murphy’s obsession with pulling stupid faces. His performance is again, is hugely disappointing for a man widely regarded as being one of the best ever stand-up comedians in his heyday.
Though Thomas Haden Church is similarly frustrating in his misplayed role, young Yara Shahidi shows a lot of promise as Olivia Danielson.
To its credit, Imagine That does somehow orchestrate a closing sequence might pull a couple of heartstrings but that’s despite raising barely a care for the characters throughout everything that went before it, and the grandeur from a remarkable $55m budget is nowhere to be seen.
You might chuckle a couple of times, but it is literally a couple, and that’s nowhere near enough humour, especially for kids. Imagine That, however, certainly is much better than Meet Dave and Norbit, for which you would have been easily forgiven for walking out of the cinema, but it is not a remarkable children’s film by any stretch of the imagination.