It should be easy to hate Imagine That. As a kids movie, it concerns the trials of an investment banker looking to move up in his firm, played by Eddie Murphy. Scenes of Murphy dabbling away at his computer, crunching numbers, and presenting ideas to clients are impossibly boring for a small child, let alone the adults.
For the older audience, there isn’t much either. The story concerns Evan Danielson (Murphy) who spends too much time at work, straining his marriage to the point of divorce and ignoring his only child. The outcome is apparent from the opening scenes, and the utter disaster that is Thomas Haden Church playing an Indian is far too painful to discuss here.
But, you can’t hate this movie. It has a bright spot, that centerpiece that just barely holds Imagine That together just long enough: Yara Shahidi as Olivia. She is Evan’s daughter, seven years old with a “magic blanket” that can foretell the future of major corporations.
She is adorable, and her interactions with Murphy are undeniably sweet. She immediately brightens the film, and while she has little complex work, everything she does feels genuine. As Olivia brings her father into her fantasy world for the first time, they playfully romp around the apartment. Murphy has a chance to perform his usual goofball routine, and Yara has a chance to be a kid.
That scene works, along with almost any involving Yara, which makes this painfully unoriginal and unimaginative (ironic, no?) script from Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson that much more of a disappointment. How are kids going to understand that the little girl can imagine stock forecasts, when their own imagination is filled with vibrant playful images? Olivia’s head is apparently filled with a calculator.
This is a fine AVC encode from Paramount, certainly one that immediately jumps out at the viewer with its deep, rich black levels. Unfortunately, they are too deep, causing significant crush and eliminating shadow detail. The same goes from the whites, typically bleached out and flat.
Nearly everything else about Imagine That looks fine, with a strong level of color saturation, accurate flesh tones, and superb details… when the latter are not crushed. Sharpness is routinely strong, with marginal softness. There are no instances of artificial enhancement, and the grain structure is held together by a bit rate hungry encode.
A TrueHD audio presentation has little to do other than process dialogue and occasional musical cues. The front soundstage is hardly used, and the rear channels are left to their own devices. Dialogue is fine, with a general crispness one should expect from any modern film. Perfectly acceptable.
The extras menu looks quite expansive, but devolves into a series of short (in some cases quite short) featurettes. The commentary from director Karey Kirkpatrick and Yara Shahidi is fun if lacking in terms of its informational value.
The longest of the featurettes barely breaks the nine-minute mark titled Playground of the Mind, detailing the imaginations of the various cast members when they were children. Shahidi takes the viewer on a set tour, while in another featurette Kirkpatrick tells how she was cast. A piece on Kirkpatrick himself follows, along with another on the Indian legend that spurred the blanket concept for the film.
Outtakes from the various newscasters are followed by additional flubs from Murpy and Shahidi. Five deleted scenes include an alternate ending.