With Imagine That, Eddie Murphy has made a family-friendly film without a single fart joke. True, he does put his foot in a cow patty at one point, but Imagine That is refreshingly free of Murphy's usual penchant for antic toilet humor and howling bad taste. It's a downright restrained performance from the once-upon-a-time comic genius who gave us the dark humor of Trading Places, the scathing standup of Raw and the sweet-natured romance of Coming to America, in what now feels like an entirely different career.
Murphy is Evan Danielson, a workaholic financial analyst so wrapped up in his hyper-competitive workload that he's become an archetype of the separated bad dad to his 7-year-old daughter, Olivia (the impossibly adorable Yara Shahidi). While his ex (Nicole Ari Parker) bemoans his nonexistent parenting skills, lonely little Olivia has conjured a band of imaginary friends to offset her lack of a caring father figure. As it happens, her invisible pals and the blue blankie she uses to enter their realm have a decided knack for finance, and pretty soon dad and daughter are bonding over magic kingdoms and stock portfolios, although Evan views this improbability more as a means to advance his career than his relationship with his daughter.
You can probably guess how all this is going to end up. But Imagine That is an at times charming and sweet family film with engaging performances, a straightforward moral for parents everywhere, and enough genuine giggles to keep both parents and their young charges amused.