Review: Eddie Murphy is in another trite, predictable sci-fi flick—Imagine That

The new Eddie Murphy movie Imagine That, about a guy working in high stakes finance (Murphy, of course) getting stock tips from his little girl's imaginary playmates, features a gag in which a man in a nice suit and wearing nice shoes steps in a big steaming pile of cattle poop. This is the level of yucks to which the movie is willing to stoop. I'm not faulting it for that, I'm just warning you guys that if you're expecting Noel Coward levels of scintillating wit, you're gonna be a little disappointed.

For adults, the unafraid-to-make-poop-jokes Imagine That is agonizingly predictable and trite, with a really sort of questionable moral premise that seems to say that it's OK to exploit your kid as a source of inside trader information to make millions of dollars ... so long as the inside trader information is magical inside trader information. By that same logic, Enron's practices would be OK if they were contrived by the Tooth Fairy, but never mind.

The movie is 107 minutes or so long, with only about 45 minutes of real story. There's a subplot about a Native American (Thomas Haden Church) using King of the Hill/John Redcorn-type "tribal wisdom" to build portfolios that gets really old really fast, some of the worst appropriation of the Beatles' music since Charles Manson, and with Eddie Murphy working high finance again with the aid of imaginary, invisible playmates, there's an uncomfortable feeling that you might be watching Trading Places after someone has slipped you some of the brown acid they warned folks about at Woodstock.

The plotting, by Bill & Ted scripters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, requires an artificially imposed climax to shove things toward their resolution with a phony sense of urgency in the form of Big Boss # 32 in a series of movie clichés (played by Martin Sheen) coming to town for the kind of Big Important Business Meeting Complicated by Magical Issues that Darren Stephens had to face each week on Bewitched.

But that's for adults. Kids, for whom a lot of the really overused bits of the movie won't be so stale or annoying, will probably love it. Imagine That, as a pre-tweens kids' movie, is at times authentically cute. The moments of father/daughter sweetness don't feel contrived or forced. As Murphy's daughter Olivia, the criminally adorable Yara Shahidi holds her own on screen with a guy who makes $20 million a picture. There's a genuineness to the scenes in which Murphy and Shahidi frolic in Olivia's fantasy world that might make you wish that director Karey Kirkpatrick (who previously made the animated Over the Hedge) had just locked the camera down on a tripod for 90 minutes and filmed the two playing.

Imagine That, while not a good movie in and of itself, is at least tolerable for folks over 10, and as such will probably be a godsend for parents who've already taken their kids to see Up, and who want to take them to see something besides an effects-laden summer bash-fest.

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