In Imagine That, Eddie Murphy channels his inner child, which pretty much involves the same litany of mugging, grinning, spastic dancing and silly voices he's coasted on for decades. Once upon a time, Murphy played quick-talking hustlers and streetwise cops; but now, when not voicing cartoons, he mostly plays a dad, the kind who must con his bratty children into behaving.
Here he's Evan, an ambitious investment broker who's got no time for his cute little moppet of a daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi), until the imaginary friends under her security blanket begin to offer up amazingly accurate stock tips. This is just the edge he needs to finally beat out his competition inside the firm, Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church), a blowhard who mixes big doses of phony New Age shamanism with his portfolio creations. It's an arms race of crazy financial gimmicks, but will Evan's success replace all the respect he's lost from his child and from his ex-wife, (Nicole Ari Parker, who looks like the love child of Halle Berry and Kristen Wiig)? If you've never seen a movie before, you may be in suspense.
While the message is sweet, and Shahidi is a fine little actress, there's nothing all that memorable or imaginative in Imagine That. This is a script even Jim Carrey would blow off, but Murphy is well beyond the point of shame or dignity and he frantically scrounges for laughs, the biggest fraud this side of Wall Street.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].