Imagine That definitely falls into the category of one of Eddie Murphys flops. With a script from the duo that between them wrote Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure (1989) and Men in Black (1997), Imagine That should to all accounts have been a laugh riot. On the other hand, it is hard to think that any studio executive who had the power to greenlight the film would not have seen what a lightweight and lame premise the film has in which a stockbroker receives stock tips from his six-year-old daughters using her security blanket. Maybe people were thinking of the success just six months before of Bedtime Stories (2008), which had Adam Sandler finding that the childrens bedtime stories he tells come to life around him. Much of Imagine That seems premised around Eddie Murphy in a corporate boardroom relaying stock information in kids talk, or scenes where he is determined to embarrass himself, running around underneath a kids blanket or dancing in public places. Needless to say, despite a $55 million budget, Imagine That only earned back $16 million in domestic box-office returns when it opened and was universally panned.
Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick, who has written a number of other childrens films (see below), Imagine That travels in easily predictable arcs, ones where Eddie Murphy must inevitably find his inner child, bond with his daughter, overcome his corporate rival and ultimately realise that family means more to him than business success. The basic premise of the film seems to be a combination of Disneys The Barefoot Executive (1971), which had a tv executive discovering that a chimpanzee could predict which tv programs were going to be hits, and the classic Harvey (1950) where James Stewart was insistent in the belief that he had an invisible six-foot tall white rabbit companion. Like Harvey, the film here remains carefully ambiguous as to whether Yara Shahidis companions have any actual existence outside of her imagination and we never see any physical manifestation of them. Even if the premise itself is lame, there is a certain satiric amusement to the some of the films ideas that stock prediction is basically a nonsensical science and it makes just as much sense to rely upon a kids perspective or wacky Native American mysticism.
Of course, what makes Imagine That watchable is Eddie Murphy. He seems determined to compensate for the lightweight material and scenes that would normally embarrass another star by sheer force of out-acting everyone else. He gives it his all and is the life of the party. Yara Shahidi gives an intelligent performance and she and Eddie Murphy strike up a wonderful rapport together, conducting cooking experiments, running around the apartment and with he coaching her how to sing Beatles songs. It is these scenes that give Imagine That its life. Thomas Haden Church follows close on Eddie Murphys tail and gives an exceedingly whacked out performance, even if it is one that treads into dubious racial territory.
Karey Kirpatricks other films include the scripts for The Rescuers Down Under (1990), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997), Chicken Run (2000), The Little Vampire (2000), The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Charlottes Web (2006), The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008), the English-language version of From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) and The Smurfs 2 (2013). Karey Kirkpatrick made his directorial debut as co-director of the animated Over the Hedge (2006).