Imagine That - Catholic Courier

Imagine That

NEW YORK (CNS) — Given the current economic turmoil, stories that elevate family bonds over the paper kind may be more valuable than ever. So, as the conversion story of a work-obsessed financier and emotionally neglectful dad, Eddie Murphy’s latest project, “Imagine That” (Paramount/Nickelodeon), proves a timely as well as charming comic fantasy.
 
Murphy plays Denver investment adviser Evan Danielson, whose career success has been achieved at the expense of his marriage to ex-wife Trish (Nicole Ari Parker) and his relationship with their young daughter, Olivia (Yara Shahidi in a bubbly debut).
 
Lost in the shuffle of her parents’ breakup — the negative effects of divorce are subtly but unmistakably implied — and largely ignored by her father, Olivia clings to the security blanket she calls her “goo-gaa” and uses it as the portal into an imaginary kingdom ruled by a queen and three princesses.
 
When Evan accidentally discovers that these fictional personages can somehow make accurate financial predictions about the companies he studies, he begins to connect with Olivia for the first time. Previously uncomfortable around her and grudging of his time, he now enters wholeheartedly into her elaborate play and even does silly dances in public to win “royal” favor.
 
In a poignant moment, Olivia assures Evan that her friends now trust him, meaning of course that, for the first time, she herself does. But, with business rival Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church) — a pretentious but popular figure at Evan’s firm — competing with him for a promotion, Evan’s treatment of Olivia begins to veer into exploitation, and she is in danger of becoming merely a means to his ends.
 
In his first live-action venture, successful animation director Karey Kirkpatrick (“Chicken Run”) capitalizes on Murphy’s versatility to shift the mood adeptly from the comic to the touching. And Church provides a hiss-worthy villain as the New Age-y, platitude-spouting Whitefeather (“Ain’t nothing but a thing,” goes one of his vacuous catchphrases).
 
Martin Sheen makes the most of his relatively brief screen time as Dante D’Enzo, the renowned tycoon who will ultimately decide between Evan and Johnny, playing this master capitalist with the same gravitas that made Sheen a believable head of state on “The West Wing.”
 
The mostly energetic pace of screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson’s script lags briefly toward the end. But, a few slightly crass terms aside, the tale they spin makes appropriate, morally sound viewing for all generations.
 
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.

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