Bruce McBroom
Owen Gleiberman
June 10, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Imagine That

Current Status
In Season
107 minutes
Wide Release Date
Thomas Haden Church, Eddie Murphy, Nicole Ari Parker, James Patrick Stuart
Karey Kirkpatrick
Paramount Pictures
Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Comedy, Sci-fi and Fantasy

We gave it a C+

In Imagine That, Eddie Murphy, as a finance wizard, is supposed to be a father woefully out of touch with his inner child. But Murphy turns the role into a one-man Romper Room. He minces, he contorts his face into twitchy grimaces, he collapses into fits of mock hysteria so intense that the mock all but falls away. And that’s before he learns that his daughter (Yara Shahidi) is communing with a set of imaginary playmates — three princesses and a queen — who offer insider stock tips that never fail. (Is this sort of information legal when it’s delivered by a child’s made-up companions? The movie never says.) At that point, Murphy really starts to act up.

To retrieve the tips, he must play along with his daughter by pretending to visit her friends in their fairy kingdom. This requires him to explore, for the first time, his parental imagination; it requires him to have fun with his child. Imagine That is a benignly didactic kiddie movie that at once benefits from and gets buried under Eddie Murphy’s skittery, overeager inflections. He can often be a bit much, like his idol Jerry Lewis. That said, there’s something sweet about the way that Murphy throws himself into this piffle. Thomas Haden Church does too, as Murphy’s rival, a corporatized Native American who talks about finance in fake-Indian gobbledygook. At times, he almost makes sense. C+

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