QUICKary Review: Imagine That is predictable every step of the way, but it’s still enjoyable because Eddie Murphy isn’t annoying and Yara Shahidi is the cutest kid EVER.
I won’t hold it against you if you rolled your eyes at the thought of another Eddie Murphy movie, because I did at first. However, Imagine That is one of the better non-Shrek movies Murphy’s done in years (excluding Dreamgirls) because he’s not acting over-the-top or parading around in a fatsuit again.
Murphy plays Evan, a financial advisor who spends all of his time trying to crush his work rival, Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church). Separated from his wife Trish (Nicole Ari Parker), Evan promises to take care of their young daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi) for a week. Being the workaholic he is Evan ignores his daughter, who carries around a magic blanket that lets her chat with imaginary princesses. It’s not until the princesses start giving helpful financial advice about companies that Evan starts spending time with Olivia in her imaginary world, that way he can keep getting hot stock tips.
Imagine That does the smart thing and doesn’t use special effects to let us actually see the princesses on the screen. They’re just as much in our imagination as they are in Olivia’s. In her first movie role, Yara Shahidi does a wonderful job of making Olivia a genuinely sweet girl with a bright imagination. Evan starts off as an uptight businessman, but once he loosens up, Murphy steps into the funny role without being annoying. Of course his antics aren’t really funny and I wouldn’t expect them to be in a PG movie, but the moments where Evan and Olivia eat special pancakes or run around the kitchen to meet the princesses are what make Murphy and Shahidi’s on-screen chemistry natural and heartwarming.
The comedy comes from Thomas Haden Church who is surprisingly funny as Johnny Whitefeather, Evan’s Native American coworker that gets his advice from Indian spirits and dream sparrows. The whole stock market thing will go over the heads of Imagine That’s intended audience, but his garbled spiritual advice and unorthodox way of producing results is what keeps the financial world in this movie from being boring.
The big downside to Imagine That is its predictable story. Is it absolutely necessary to rush to the movies right now and see Imagine That? No, because if you have a collection of kids’ movies at home then you probably already have the one about the neglectful parent who realizes they’re selfish and aren’t spending enough time in their child’s life. However, Yara Shahidi is adorable and an absolute pleasure to watch throughout. It’s hard not to imagine her becoming a rising star in the coming years. And while Eddie Murphy’s career has dwindled down to him making kids’ movies, I’d take Imagine That over Meet Dave or Norbit any day.