Published Jun 11, 2009Imagine That belongs in Plato's World of Forms. This isn't just a typical family comedy — this is the typical family comedy. Here is a movie so formulaic and predictable that you'll be able to spot every single plot twist before you put your shoes on to go to the theatre. As a piece of technical craftsmanship, I suppose it achieves a basic level of competence but it's mediocrities like this that make me long to see something truly terrible. At least an incompetent film is likely to take a few chances.
If viewed in the right frame of mind, Imagine That might become a mildly diverting game of "spot the cliché." Eddie Murphy stars as Evan, a workaholic, divorced father who never has time for his daughter (Yara Shahidi). Rest assured that his ex-wife is on hand to show up periodically and lecture him about his responsibilities. To his horror, Evan discovers that his daughter has doodled on his important stock analysis papers but is astonished when he learns that the scribbling contains correct future information about the stock market. So Evan embarks on a journey to a dream world of magic and imagination, always learning dynamite new information from the girl's make-believe friends.
Test your movie knowledge with this quiz: will there be a montage showing him as the toast of the business world? Will he face competition from Thomas Haden Church as a slimy co-worker and Tommy Wiseau look-alike determined to discover his secret? Will the two men go head-to-head for a promotion? And, oh no, will the movie climax with a scene where Evan is forced to choose between going to a big job interview or attending his daughter's school concert? Oy, it's way too soon for a Jersey Girl remake.
The gimmicky premise might have been redeemed if Murphy had brought his A-game but no dice; he is consistently, aggressively unfunny. You can practically smell the flop-sweat as he goes through the motions of goofy voices and jittery verbal tics. The story is thoroughly un-charming (Evan only starts spending time with his daughter when he finds a way to exploit her?), and even the kid is annoying: she's whiny, passive aggressive and borderline sadistic.
So this is the kind of lazy nothingness that Murphy produces in the wake of his Dreamgirls "comeback"? Imagine that. (Paramount)