It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Eddie Murphy’s new family comedy “Imagine That” is a pleasant, unassuming fantasy in which a high-powered investment adviser gets advice from his daughter’s imaginary friends. We never see the friends, but we see a great deal of the daughter, in a charming performance from newcomer Yara Shahidi.
She plays Olivia, 7 years old, who doesn’t see nearly enough of her daddy. He is Evan Danielson (Murphy), who is competing for a big promotion at his Denver firm. Olivia is being raised by his former wife (Nicole Ari Parker), who insists it is time for the child to spend some quality time with her father.
Evan is not well equipped to handle this or much of anything else apart from his job. He can’t find baby-sitters, takes the kid to the office, and to his horror, discovers she has drawn with waterpaints all over his notes and charts for a crucial meeting. It does not go well. He’s upstaged by Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church), a Native American who evokes the great spirits and Indian legends to convince clients the force is with him.
In response, Murphy does one of his semi-comic riffs, desperately improvising advice from the stories Olivia told him about her drawings. He returns to his office expecting to be fired, but, amazingly the advice turns out to be solid gold. But how did he do that? What did Olivia know? She knew what a fairy princess told her, and she can see her imaginary world when she has her precious blue blankie over her head. Evan doesn’t know what else to do, so he starts turning to Olivia for more investment tips, and she’s right again and again.