Twitter Plot Summary: Eddie Murphy gets trading tips from his daughter’s imaginary friends. Seriously.
Five Point Summary:
1. Thomas Haden Church taking fashion tips from 80s hair metal bands…
2. One instance where a kid drawing on daddy’s work is actually a good thing.
3. Is he really a Native American?
4. The tables have turned. Or something.
5. Ahh, everyone learns something valuable. Of course they do.
Another of Eddie Murphy’s slightly ill-judged family friendly comedies, Imagine That should be approached with trepidation unless you have children. The tone is less zany than some of his more recent work, and it’s clear why Murphy chose to take on the script as it all comes from a genuine place. Murphy is Evan Danielson, a high flying business man who is more interested in his work than raising his daughter. Finding himself on the verge of the biggest deal of his career, he has to split his time between work and supporting his daughter. He’s divorced from her mother and, because of his work obsession finds himself distant from his daughter and struggling to connect with her. Evan has to work out how to connect with his inner child (or “Little Evan” as his best friend puts it – no sniggering please), which is helped by his daughter and her imaginary friends.
Yes, imaginary friends. It’s not all that bad though, honestly. There’s a feeling that it could lapse heavily into whimsy and fantasy, but its feet remain firmly in the realms of reality. That’s perhaps to its detriment, as a decent slice of fantasy may have saved this from the doldrums and given Murphy something to do other than gurn excessively. A welcome appearance from Martin Sheen adds an element of gravitas but for one he doesn’t have enough to do, and for another he shows up after you’ve already given up on the film and headed to the kitchen to make your lunch. Or your kid’s lunch, as applicable. They’d probably join you in the kitchen, thinking about it.
Somehow Thomas Haden Church is set up as the rival ideas man, one who claims to have extensive Native American heritage and backs this up with constant chatter about the elements and nature, converted into handy bite sized pieces of sage business advice. He also rocks an impressive mullet, which gives the impression that this was a script from the 80s that took nearly 30 years to see the light of day. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out this is the case. As events take an increasing turn for the silly and build towards the inevitable finale – the one where Evan learns a valuable lesson about not spending all of his time at work and establishing a work/life balance that let’s him spend time with his daughter – to be honest you probably won’t care enough by that point. There’s too much meandering nothingness in the second act to push you through to the end, so you’d probably miss out on that Martin Sheen appearance and the big message we’re all supposed to have learned.
The humour is gentle enough whilst being neither laugh out loud funny not absolutely diabolical. Disappointingly it’s very middle of the road, which can be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing. Bad because it’s not the genuinely entertaining Eddie Murphy vehicle we’re all hoping will recapture the energy and wit of his 80s/90s output, but good because it’s not The Adventures of Pluto Nash.