Man, I used to love me some Eddie Murphy back in the day played my cassette of his first stand-up routine so many times, the tape popped. And I did what? Bought me another copy. Because I just had to hear him do the whole, “Wanna eat? Wanna eat? Roll up your shirt then and put that on the fire!” routine he did about his lighter fluid-obsessed, fake grill master uncle. And the riff about guy with rollers in his hair who, when TV cameras show up to capture the news, always seems to have “seent” what went down. And the one about splashing perfume on his… yeah, well, let’s just say it was side-splitting hysterical.
You couldn’t have told me in a million years that the foul-mouthed, red leather suit-wearing man prowling across comedy stages and clowning James Brown on Saturday Night Live and turning out the big screen with his racy Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours movies would eventually end up being one of the biggest box office draws for kid flicks. But here’s Murphy, star of Shreck, The Klumps, and Daddy Day Care, serving up what looks like yet another fantastic film for the babies: Imagine That. According to the film’s website, Eddie Murphy stars as a successful financial executive who has more time for his blackberry than his 7-year-old daughter (the absolutely adorable Yara Shahidi). When he has a crisis of confidence and his career starts going down the drain, however, he finds the solution to all his problems in his daughter's imaginary world.
Film critics seem to be into it; consider the three-star review from Tom Keogh of The Seattle Times:
When they called this film “Imagine That,” they weren’t kidding. With family movies largely doing our imagining for us these days, using intricate computer effects, it’s refreshing to run across a feature with a big star, no less that re-
defines imagination as an internal, human quality.
In fact, “Imagine That” has old-fashioned appeal, keeping one guessing whether there’s truth to a child’s claims. The filmmakers understood (as with the classic “Harvey”) that a little ambiguity can be highly entertaining.
Eddie Murphy in his best, live-action performance in many years plays Evan, a financial executive who ignores his young daughter, Olivia (Yara Shahidi). Things improve when he realizes Olivia is passing along accurate, visionary market analysis from her imaginary friends (albeit in childlike language).
When Olivia’s counsel helps Evan make headway at the office, she makes him pay a premium: by joining her on her visits to an invisible kingdom. In other words, by playing with her.
If there were any doubts that Murphy (despite such dreary recent fair as “Norbit” and “Meet Dave”) can still be as boldly funny and charismatic in the flesh as he has been when providing the voice of Donkey in the “Shrek” franchise, “Imagine That” helps allay them. His Evan dances, sings, goes bonkers during a meeting none of it is as brilliant as his early promise decades ago, but it’s pretty good.
My girls and I will most definitely be in the house this weekend to throw our support behind this movie not just because it’s a kid flick, but because it’s a kid flick featuring a hardworking black dad who not only handles his responsibilities as a father, but learns how to let go and have fun with his brown baby. I don’t think I have to tell you all how rare that image of African American fathers is in Hollywood, especially in children’s movies, where black men are normally virtually non-existent. I’ll be doggone if my girls and I are going to miss seeing someone who looks, walks, and acts like their daddy on the big screen.
Thank you Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount Pictures for creating quality programming for all of us. Keep movies like Imagine That coming, and the Chileses will keep coming, too. I’m hoping that MyBrownBaby’s followers make the same statement by showing up and out for this fantastic family movie.
Well go on what you waiting for? Go buy those tickets!