Twenty years ago who could have imagined that Eddie Murphy – the potty-mouthed, “raw” comedian who electrified in 48 Hrs and Beverly Hills Cop – would reinvent himself as a specialist in family entertainment with a fan base barely out of kindergarten? Unthinkable! Unless they had a ‘Goo-gaa’, a blanket that conjures up invisible friends with magical and prophetic powers, like Eddie’s onscreen daughter does here.
Olivia’s parents assume she’s making this up. They have separated, it’s a stressful time for a little kid. But high-flying stockbroker Evan (Murphy) changes his mind when his little girl’s imaginary playmates start supplying him with the hottest tips on Wall Street. All he has to do is play along with Olivia’s rich fantasy life, and figure out how to sell her infantile – but on-the-money – business reports to his top corporate clients.
You won’t need a crystal ball – or a Goo-gaa – to figure out that Evan needs to stop worrying about money and career, and redirect his energies towards quality time with his family. Ironically, though, Imagine That dedicates so much of its running time to boardroom shenanigans and high finance deals, it will most likely bore the very same younger viewers who dragged dad to the movie in the first place.
Murphy submits rather wearily to the script’s contrived but not unpleasant humiliations. He has to make a spectacle of himself, singing in a falsetto in a public square and so on. You can see that his heart isn’t in it.
Meanwhile Thomas Haden Church steals the picture as Evan’s ambitious and conniving rival. He calls himself Johnny Whitefeather and claims to be a Native American (“and How!”). In reality, he’s the kind who puts the sham in “shaman”, but apparently this kind of stuff goes over big with the guys investing our pension funds.
Incidentally, almost as odd as Murphy’s career makeover, this seems a very strange project to have reunited Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, the screenwriters who gave us Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure twenty years ago now. Age comes to us all – and with it, a morbid interest in quality time and stock prices.
As for the true source of Olivia’s insider knowledge, the filmmakers are keeping that secret very close to their chests.
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