Evan Danielson (Eddie Murphy) is a successful financial executive who has more time for his blackberry than his seven-year-old daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi). When he has a crisis of confidence and his career as a financial advisor is threatened he finds the solution to all his problems in his daughter's imaginary world.
Review by Louise Keller:
Eddie Murphy, in his hyperactive comedic guise, is in fine fettle in this family-friendly comedy, although he is largely upstaged by his enchanting 7 year old co-star Yara Shahidi, who steals scenes as quickly as Murphy talks. The camera loves Shahidi with her saucer eyes, pouting lips and crop of thick braided hair, but it's her natural demeanour that wins us over as Olivia, the little girl whose security blanket acts as a magic carpet to the world of make-believe she creates in her imagination.
Shahidi is not the only one who upstages Murphy. Thomas Haden Church delivers a hilarious turn as the American Indian worshiper Johnny Whitefeather ('Sometimes the best spear is the one you don't throw') with unconventional work practises. How dragons and princesses become entangled in magnesium futures and fluctuations is cleverly intertwined in the plot as we watch the workaholic Evan become a puppet to his daughter's imaginary world. It's harmless and amusing fun as she makes him dance in public and sing (high, low, higher, lower) when he believes she has acquired a financial world psychic ability. As for the pancake scene, Nigella need not worry about the competition.
The premise that allows Murphy's gee-whizz investment adviser Evan to be yanked into Olivia's fantasy world is nicely devised, resulting in a conundrum in which we quickly learn who (of Evan and Olivia) is the more dependent on the central Goo-Gaa, as the little lilac blanket is called. Director Karey Kirkpatrick, best known as writer of such films as Chicken Run and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, handles the material well (the underlying themes are about love and family) and we feel as though we are in on the joke. It's formulaic and predictable but delivers on its promise of easy entertainment for the whole family with good natured laughs and a sweet heart.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Ham fisted and formulaic, Imagine That nevertheless has some endearing qualities to save it from the trash can - notably Yara Shahidi, the cute little bundle whose smartly innocent presence and likeable little face are so loved by the camera that director Karey Fitzpatrick won't take it off her. She has to carry most of the film since the premise is shallow and derivative, another entry in the 'fathers should spend time with their kids' subgenre of family films. The message is hammered home with ferocious repetition, and for good measure the parents are divorced, so the father's absence is even more pronounced.
The career minded dad first has to need his little girl for his success at work, through a clumsy fantasy device that doesn't work for one minute, until he has an epiphany and is rewarded by the adoring looks of his daughter, the approval of his ex, and the promotion he so badly wanted. Such pat resolutions only come about at the hands of writers being whipped by the movie financing execs, and whose originality is squeezed out of the screenplay.
The film is set in a well to do, upper middle class black family, whose divorced couple enjoy splendid homes with maids (she is Mexican) and a plastic relationship. Reliant on the comedic premise that Murphy's Evan, the dad, would be funny entering the fantasy world of his 7 year old daughter, guided be her Goo-Gaa (safety blanket), the screenplay rests on the playout of that premise, with mostly superficial results. But there is a kernel of something here, and we can sense that the serious anchor for the idea is valid; pity it doesn't get the treatment it (and we) deserve. Instead, the fantasy characters are the source of sharp, prophetic financial advice of which Evan hopes to make good use in his competition with the office spiritualist, the fake Indian Johnny Whitefeather - Thomas Haden Church in an outrageously clever role; he's the best thing in the film (after Yara, of course).
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IMAGINE THAT (G)
CAST: Eddie Murphy, Yara Shahidi, Thomas Haden Church, Nicole Ari Parker, Ronny Cox, DeRay Davis, Vanessa Williams, Martin Sheen
PRODUCER: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Ed Solomon
DIRECTOR: Karey Kirkpatrick
SCRIPT: Ed Solomon, Chris Matheson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Lindley
EDITOR: David Moritz
MUSIC: Mark Mancina
PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Arnold
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: VIC/QLD: September 17; WA/SA/NT/ACT: September 24; NSW: October 1, 2009