In a Rut

Eddie Murphy stinks yet again in the poorly made 'Imagine That'

Is it time to admit that Eddie Murphy isn't as good as he once appeared to be? For the last 10 years, Murphy has been appearing in junky films (with the exception of Dreamgirls) in a misguided attempt to be more of a "family man" at the movies. The resultant films have ranged from mildly amusing (Life) to deplorable (Norbit).

Murphy has repeatedly hooked up with director Brian Robbins, the man responsible for Norbit and Meet Dave, two of Murphy's worst films. His next movie, A Thousand Words, is also helmed by Robbins. Murphy simply doesn't seem to care about the quality of his efforts. He's just a slumming movie star.

His latest misfire, Imagine That, offers further proof, as he gets outshined by Yara Shahidi, the little girl who plays his daughter. Murphy plays Evan, a Denver financial executive who is facing fierce competition from Whitefeather (a pathetic Thomas Haden Church). He's stuck in a rut with his business decisions and failing miserably as a parent.

Daughter Olivia believes in an imaginary land, and she can only get there with her security blanket. She also believes the inhabitants of that land are giving her sage financial advice, which she passes on to her disbelieving father. When she doodles stuff about mergers and foul business practices on Evan's notes, and it all comes true, Evan is viewed by his superiors as some sort of genius. He also gets chummy with his daughter, and they eat burnt pancakes with ketchup.

What a brilliant idea for a family film! I was just thinking about how these kids today just love that financial stuff, especially all that business about mergers and takeovers and who is going to win that big promotion. That's the stuff that just rivets little eyes to the movie screen, right? This film is clearly aimed at families and children, but the kids at the screening I attended were more interested in tossing their booster seats at patrons in front of them, while the parents fiddled with the plastic bags they used to smuggle in Cheetos.

Church embarrasses himself as a man who mixes Native American lore into his business, luring clients away from Evan and conducting chants in the boardroom. Sporting a big dyed mullet, Church is given nothing even remotely good to do with this abhorrent character, and the scenes he shares with Murphy are awkward.

One of the big problems with this film is that we never see the imaginary land where Olivia consults with princesses and dragons. I know the whole point is that it just might all be in her mind, but some dragons and fairies and whatnot would be a whole lot more interesting to look at than Thomas Haden Church and Martin Sheen hanging around in some financial office. No fantasy-world budget means there's more money to pay Murphy.

Murphy is just doing his usual shtick—that loud, rapid-fire line delivery with his eyes bugging out. He has some moments that are somewhat sweet, but nothing that comes off as funny. Bobb'e J. Thompson, the foul-mouthed kid from Role Models, shares a couple of minutes with Murphy late in the film. His little cameo has 10 times more comedic inspiration than Murphy's entire performance.

There's been a lot of talk about a new Beverly Hills Cop movie, but I'm thinking there's a better chance Murphy will do something like Nutty Professor 3: Hell Yeah I'm in a Fat Suit Again ... Now Pay Me! or Eddie Murphy Plays Tennis at Summer Camp With Kids While Screaming a Lot. Either way, I'm no longer looking forward to Murphy's future efforts.