Imagine That

Why anyone imagines children want to see Eddie Murphy's internal struggle may be the first question posed by Imagine That, but it's hardly the last.

Imagine That

Director: Karey Kirkpatrick
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Yara Shahidi, Thomas Haden Church, Nicole Ari Parker, Ronny Cox
Rated: PG
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Year: 2009
US date: 2009-06-12 (General release)
UK date: 2009-07-31 (General release)

In Denver, investment consultant Evan (Eddie Murphy) services the rich and famous. You know this because he spends a minute of screen time in Imagine That on the Nuggets' own court, where, presumably, he can convene with the city's only other rich black men. Smiling and striding in a mobile frame, Evan is all slick arrogance, blithely unaware of how out of place he is and how out of date the scene is: his advisees are Melo and AI.

The rest of the film is rather like this, full of lame jokes and unclever allusions. The frame has Evan trying to reconnect with his precocious daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi). These efforts are hardly focused -- until he learns that Olivia has something to offer, namely, buy-and-sell advice via her imaginary friends, three princesses who have an uncanny insight into the vagaries of markets. Let's just say that, as the magical center of a movie for kids, these princesses are less than compelling.

It probably doesn't help that they remain unseen, only hinted at in Olivia's lovely face, which displays a limited range of emotions. This makes the problems they embody entirely her father's, and indeed, he is Imagine That's emotional focus. Why anyone imagines children want to see his struggle may be the first question posed by the movie, but it's hardly the last. You might also be wondering why Eddie Murphy signed on for yet another graceless family pic (possible answers: he wears nice suits and, in one brief workout scene, he shows the pecs he's plainly spent time perfecting). Or you could ask just what Martin Sheen had in mind when he agreed to walk through the role of great white daddy, the gigantic client that Evan must win in order to get the big promotion and so, confirm his own skills as an investment analyst and oh yes, keep his child in the designer clothing to which she's apparently accustomed.

Sheen's brief appearance does occasion an irrelevant and heavy-handed political point regarding Evan's rival, Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church). Throughout the film, the boys go at it, competing over accounts and the attention of their boss, Tom (Ronny Cox, who mostly looks about as bored as you may feel). Their contest -- increasingly hysterical and monotonous -- comprises a big dis of all the experts on market fluctuations. If such sentiment is popular these days, it's concentrated here through Whitefeather's unseemly gyrations, ugly makeup, and insistent Native American mysticism. He leads his clients -- and his colleagues, eyes rolling as they sit on their hands at the boardroom table -- on spiritual journeys to make money.

Apparently the clients are eager to be treated like children, because they fall in line, impressed by the chanting about herds and mountains and the "one sky" that overlooks us all, not to mention the snide allusion to "the white fire grid people call the internet." Silly as they are, the clients are relentlessly rich, which inspires Johnny and Evan to fall all over themselves, quite literally, in order to win their trust. When he finds Olivia has drawn and sparkle-glued all over his notes for a crucial meeting, Evan melts down in front of a room full of suits, spewing the imaginary predictions. As these are disguised in "princess talk" (like, two companies will be "married" and another will have its pants pulled down to expose poop in its pants), he doesn't understand quite what he's saying. He does understand, however, when Tom is impressed by his seeming brilliance: "How did you know?" the boss asks, cautioning his new star player against "insider trading" before sending him forth to win a pile of new accounts.

Yes, Evan loses his soul in his pursuit of money, and no, his cavorting for Olivia -- pretending to see dragons and genuflecting before the oh-so-demanding princesses -- is not adorable. Johnny's efforts to copy Evan's antics mark his wickedness (he gets his young son out of bed with doses of Red Bull), and Evan's ex-wife Trish (Nicole Ari Parker) provides the occasional ineffectual scowl. Still, Evan rolls on, determined to abuse his child's trust and act the fool in order to get himself to the absurdly knotted-up place where he has no choice but to submit to the plot he's signed on for -- that is, to become a good parent in spite of himself. It can't be a surprise that this impresses everyone in the business sphere as well. Except for Johnny, of course, who is not only a bad dad with a bad wig and inclination to cheat, but also a fake Native American. Oh, the humanity.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Julian Barratt and Oliver Maltman (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.