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Imagine That (2009) Print E-mail
Monday, 15 June 2009
ImageDearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of Eddie Murphy’s career.  After a long illness, it finally succumbed this weekend when the final nail, Imagine That, was hammered into its coffin.  It fought the good fight, but even an Oscar nomination (for 2006’s Dreamgirls) was not enough to save it.  In the end, crappyfamilycomedyitis just proved too darn strong.

Let us, for a moment, think of better times.  Oh, Raw.  Oh, Delirious.  How a single tear rolls down my cheek as I remember chortling at your antics.  I cannot help but sadly sing to myself, “You have no iiiiice cream, you can’t affooord it, cuz you’re on the welfare and your dad’s an alcohoooolic”.   I remember, too, when you were far and away the best thing about Saturday Night Live (sorry, Joe Piscopo, but it’s true).  I would stay up late with the babysitter and watch you in classic sketches like Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood (which I liked way better than lame-o Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood).  I even learned new words like ‘scumbucket’.  

And the movies.  The movies were awesome.  The holy Eddie Murphy quadrangle for kids growing up in the 80s (well, for those of us kids whose parents were super cool and let us watch R rated movies at the age of 8) was 48 Hours, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America.  There was no one funnier, edgier or cooler in Hollywood then you.  Bill Cosby scolded you for having a potty mouth and we loved you all the more for it.   Screw that guy and his ugly sweaters and his popsicles.  We knew who was funnier.  Considering all this, considering that your star once shined brightest in the comedy firmament, I have to ask:

Dude, what the hell happened? Aside from the occasional respite from the crap (the aforementioned Dreamgirls and Shrek), the last decade of your career has brought us a parade of pain – Meet Dave, Norbit, The Haunted Mansion and The Adventures of Pluto Nash are just a few of the featured floats.  Bring out the paddles STAT because this career has flatlined.

Let’s look closer at the most recent chapter in this tragic tome.  Imagine That tells the story of Evan (Eddie Murphy), a divorced investment executive workaholic guy who doesn’t care about anything or anyone but his career.  When forced to take care of his daughter during a crucial week at work, he discovers her imaginary friends, princesses Moppita, Floppita and Qually, have psychic insight into his very real financial world.  Suddenly, he has time and energy to devote to his daughter, Olivia, who is played quite competently by Yara Shahidi.  This is a little girl to watch.

Unfortunately, her sweet, wise beyond her years performance is not enough to save the film, which more than anything, is boring.  The first chunk of the film is all financial talk, which I’m sure the kiddies eat up like Cookie Crisp.  There’s nothing the kindergarten set loves more than a good portfolio discussion.   You’ll be so bored, you’ll find yourself praying for the guy to finally discover his kid is talking to invisible financial gurus wearing tiaras.  And when it finally happens? Meh.  Sure, Eddie Murphy does a little song and dance, but so what?  There’s almost no comedy to be found anywhere.  Thomas Haden Church is well cast as the pseudo-Native American competing executive Whitefeather, but the role is more annoying than it is funny.  And spoiler alert, you’ll be shocked to hear Evan learns a life lesson about the importance of family in the process.  

Imagine That
feels like it rolled out on a factory assembly line.  Take formerly great but fading comedy star, add formulaic story line, sprinkle in cute kid and smarmy villain and voila – you have a movie.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it was recalled due to lead paint. The best thing about Imagine That, which is a truly unremarkable film for the most part, is the soundtrack.  The producers ponied up the big bucks for Beatles songs and had young contemporary artists record them.  No one quite lives up the Beatles, of course, but I enjoyed the covers, especially Colbie Caillat’s version of “Here Comes the Sun” and Landon Pigg’s version of “Nowhere Man”.   If you must spend money on this film, I suggest you go for the album instead of the theater ticket.  It’s definitely the less torturous of the two options.

So we would like to lay the career of Eddie Murphy to rest.  Since, however, this is Hollywood and perhaps another dollar or two can be squeezed out, its corpse will propped up like Bernie’s and forced to star in future masterpieces like The Incredible Shrinking Man (seriously) and Nutty Professor 12 (well, not yet, but don’t count it out).  Of course, this is also a business that loves a good Lazarus story.  Maybe, someday, Eddie will get smart, stop making movies that are fun for no one in the family, find himself a director who remembers how great he was, form a Tarantino/Travolta-esque relationship, pick a project with some bite and rise again from the ashes of the drivel he’s making now.  I can almost imagine that.

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