In "Imagine That" Eddie Murphy plays a financial executive who has got to where he is by being ambitious, unfortunately a lack of ambition is what ends up making "Imagine That" a run of the mill family movie. It first shows in the story because for all the dressing up this is the old favourite of a workaholic father not getting his priorities in order when it comes to his child, yes Jim Carrey did it "Liar Liar" and Tim Allen in "Jungle 2 Jungle". But unoriginality is just part of the issue; lack of vision when it comes to the fantasy side of things also makes "Imagine That" only ever going to be average at best. Don't get me wrong as it is a pleasant and charming little family comedy but it is not one you will remember or look to watch again.
Evan Danielson (Eddie Murphy - Meet Dave) has worked for the company as a financial executive for many years and his commitment and hours of hard work are paying off, except 16 months earlier they also hired the flamboyant Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church - Spider-Man 3) who gets financial advice from the spirits and the clients love him. To add to Evan's problems is his daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi) because it is his week to have her and he has to work. But maybe Olivia and her magic blanket which takes her off into an imaginary world will be the answer to his problems.
Ignoring the whole "magical" side of "Imagine That" for a moment and what we have is the often used story of a workaholic father. In fact the whole set up that he and his wife have split and he has a daughter who is disappointed in him because he is always working is just one big cliche. And whilst there is the "magical" side the movie plays out in a completely predictable manner as Evan ends up bonding with Olivia and then has to make a choice between career and family.
But the thing about "Imagine That" is that it wants to be fun and "magical" because it is through Olivia's blanket that we have this imaginary world where her friends somehow give solid financial advice to Evan. I know that is seriously daft to start with but what is a disappointment is that it doesn't feel ambitious, if we had been whisked away to an imaginary world then yes it would have been good. But when all you get is Evan jumping around his room with Olivia and basically humouring her it feels like an opportunity wasted. In fact there are a lot of wasted opportunities in "Imagine That" from Johnny Whitefeather who says he channels Indian spirits to what happens in the end.
The irony of this is that whilst "Imagine That" ends up just another average workaholic father story it has its moments. Whenever Yara Shahidi as Olivia smiles her face lights up and it is magical and whilst Eddie Murphy basically acts the fool he works so well with Yara that watching him play along in the imaginary world is charming.
What this all boils down to is that "Imagine That" is just Eddie Murphy in a movie which trades on a workaholic father storyline and before long Murphy will have done all the usual stories that make up family movies. But whilst forgettable and lacking ambition "Imagine That" does have a few moments, a few scenes which really work it's just a shame that most of this family friendly movie is so ordinary.