Screenwriters: Ed Solomon, Chris Matheson
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, Yara Shahidi
Running time: 107 mins
That shower scene in Psycho. The head-spinning regurgitations in The Exorcist. A new comedy from Eddie Murphy. All are enough to instill an overwhelming sense of fear and dread into your average cinemagoer. Of course, Murphy can be ace with the right project, such as Beverly Hills Cop and Bowfinger. Yet in recent years, star vehicles such as Norbit, Meet Dave and Daddy Day Care have seen him stoop to Martin Lawrence levels of ****ness. Could Imagine That be the movie that puts the legendary Murphy laugh back on the map yet again?
No laughs. No fun. No chance.
The good news is that this tale of a financial executive Evan Danielson (Murphy) trying to juggle his career and misfit psychic daughter Olivia (Shahidi) is not offensively unfunny. There is some shouting and wild-eyed gurning from Murphy early on, with his OTT facial expressions desperately trying to solicit smiles in the absence of any remotely funny dialogue or incidents. Yet soon this gives way to a rather pacifying, sedating tedium that is the cinematic equivalent of Nytol®. That's almost a godsend given Norbit's inextricable link with Vomitol®.
Imagine That takes an age for the crux of the plot to kick in, which echoes similar supernatural concepts from the likes of Liar, Liar and Bruce Almighty. This involves Olivia's imaginary friends being able to forecast future stock market developments, which is of great help to her father as he battles with the slick Johnny Whitefeather (Haden Church) for promotion at his work. This gives Murphy the chance to show off the physical aspect of his comedy routine, as he prances round busy streets with his daughter having conversations with imaginary beings about the current financial climate. Given the abject absence of anything funny, the whole enterprise almost unintentionally functions as a serious study of mental illness at times.
Buried beneath this mess is a decent acting partnership between Murphy and Shahidi during their more sombre father and daughter moments, as they do exude a natural air and sincerity together. But spare a thought for poor Thomas Haden Church, who gives it his all in a desperately one-dimensional role. His character's pretence of being a genuine Native American lends itself to a stream of woeful gags throughout the movie, as he refers to his team as his 'tribe', threatens to 'scalp' someone and generally spouts various mystical gobbledygook and chants. It's a shame Mr Whitefeather doesn't set off some smoke signals too - using the movie's terrible script as fuel for the fire.
Ultimately, if you want to watch a dire attempt at comedy revolving around a misguided father and troubled daughter then go off and rent Curly Sue. It's a cut above Imagine That, but that's hardly a compliment.
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