Getting in touch with his PG side, Eddie Murphy is into continued makeover mode navigating the hurdles of perplexed fatherhood and ruthless corporate warfare simultaneously, in Imagine That. This bad parenting cautionary tale arriving just in time for Father’s Day, finds Murphy unleashing his own inner child while picking up a useful skill or two from a precocious offspring.
Murphy is Evan, a corporate heavy hitter and estranged father to young schoolgirl Olivia (Yara Shahidi), who is being raised by her single mom Trish (Nicole Ari Parker). When Olivia fails to adjust to school because she withdraws into conversations with a blanket called Goo-Gaa that she refuses to part with in class, the unhappy girl is sent to live with her extremely reluctant dad.
Evan is the sort of emotionally absentee father who is a full time workaholic and simply not into the who parenting thing. In other words, a pretending-to-listen kind of dad who is more concerned about magnesium futures and their relationship to Bolivian currency fluctuations in Western metallurgy, than cooling his heels for some enthusiastic kid chef cooked up chocolate and ketchup with a side order of pancakes for dinner.
When boisterous office rival Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church) threatens to corral a position Evan was counting on, the shamelessly calculating dad puts Olivia’s magically inclined blanket to work predicting stock market shifts, and without benefit of any insider trading maneuvers. But Olivia is soon wise to her father’s suspiciously frequent play dates with his clairvoyant kid, and seemingly more of an attachment to the blanket than to her. And she’s got a few lessons of her own in mind, to teach her misbehaving parent.
Imagine That doesn’t leave all that much to the imagination, but Murphy’s heart is in the right place here, if a little on the predictably unrepentant prankster side. The story could have eased up a little on all the abracadabra and corporate jargon too, which tends to be on the heavy side. And we’re not just talking overly doctored pancakes.
2 1/2 stars