Hey, I just thought of the perfect Halloween costume that'll surely be the hit of the party. The best part is you can make it yourself!
You crafty-types will need:
-A copy of 'Imagine That' on Blu-ray
Step 1 (well, there really is only one step): Tape the Blu-ray case to your forehead with the cover facing outwards.
Ta-da! Instant Halloween mask, and you can bet your friends will be jealous.
Okay, maybe not. Anyway, there's good reason for my sarcastic rant, as there's a quote on the packaging for Eddie Murphy's latest flick stating: "The hilarious go-to comedy the whole family will love." If we're talking about the same film here, then that's the most sugarcoated load of bull I've read in quite some time. The first part of the statement can be considered a bit of an exaggeration, but it's the second part that really gets my goat by fully wading into fib waters. I'll give it this, though, it does make a half-decent disguise.
Evan Danielson (Murphy) is a dedicated financial executive who gives his career 100 percent, which unfortunately doesn't leave much percentage to go around for his other job -- being a father to seven-year-old Olivia (Yara Shahidi). When rival co-worker Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church) begins winning over other members of the firm with his unique methods and Native American words of wisdom, Evan has to focus even harder on business, and that only alienates his daughter further. Things take a turn for the better when Olivia somehow starts giving accurate stock advice by way of her security blanket, which she calls a "goo-gah," and of course Evan takes notice. Evan uses his daughter at first to rise to the top, but as the two spend quality time together traveling through imaginary forests and visiting magical princesses adept at insider trading, Evan will be reminded of what really matters most -- family.
Sure, comedy is always subjective, but you can usually tell when a film is going for knee-slapping hyena action or is taking a softer, understated approach with its humor, and 'Imagine That' definitely falls into the latter camp. This isn't necessarily a negative, although by the same token branding it "hilarity" is somewhat misleading. Church basically just spews nature analogies that are dry and grow tiresome pretty quickly. Then when desperation starts setting in for Evan, it's like someone pushes the frantic sugar-rush button on the back of Eddie Murphy's head. I suppose his antics might be funny for those unfamiliar with Murphy's films, but if you've seen any of his recent live action comedies, it's really the same old shtick -- just in a different package.
My main beef with this film is the way it's being so carelessly mislabeled as a "family comedy." Any movie can be given a PG rating and toss in a kid actor, but it needs to be constantly aware of the intended viewership or else it will fail, and this is where 'Imagine That' falls flat on its face. While the first half of the movie does have a handful of scenes with Olivia, the bulk of the exposition is wasted on office hijinks. Now I'm sure some adults may dig this, particularly those who can relate to some of the jokes. Kids, on the other hand, are another story entirely. I mean, if I was bored out of my wits with all the executive hyperbole that seems to drag on forever, can you imagine the torture it will inflict on a child with a much shorter attention span? It's basically the equivalent of turning on CNN and forcing your kids to watch it for half an hour.
Don't get me wrong, 'Imagine That' isn't all bad. Murphy and Shahidi do have a comedic chemistry together that is fun to watch at times; it's just too bad such scenes are few and far between. So it's the execution that really drags the whole movie down. I think if writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson had simply cut a hefty chunk of the corporate prose and worked in some more focus on Shahidi -- who clearly has talent -- then maybe 'Imagine That' wouldn't be so uninviting.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount presents 'Imagine That' on a dual-layered BD-50 Blu-ray disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. The U.S. version of the Blu-ray is also reported to be region-free and therefore should play properly in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.
While 'Imagine That' may be a dull and misdirected movie, at least the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (2.35:1) encode on this Blu-ray is as sharp as Eddie Murphy's wit. Not 1990s or 2000s Eddie Murphy mind you, but 1980s Eddie Murphy when he actually had some magic.
The film has a very polished video presentation that is quite attractive. The image is impeccably clean, with a very mild and pleasing grain field to give it that film-like quality. Colors are very bright, vibrant, and nicely saturated, and blacks are deep and rich. Fleshtones are natural and facial detailing is well-rendered. The texturing on clothing and background objects is sharp, and most scenes have a strong three-dimensional appearance. The Blu-ray doesn't have any signs of artifacts, noise, or banding. There are also no obvious issues with edge enhancement. Paramount has produced another excellent video transfer that shouldn't disappoint.
The Blu-ray also comes with a competent lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Dialogue is clean and well-prioritized so every spoken word and even whispers can be heard with clarity. As expected with a film like this, the mix generally radiates from the front three speakers, but a few places perk up with a decent surround ambience. The birthday party at the kids' play center is particularly lively, as is the scene when Evan is making a fool of himself out in public. Mark Mancina's score has some low bass and a nice presence throughout the soundstage. The track won't knock anyone's socks off, but for what it is it gets the job done.
The disc includes alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish, as well as optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.
The 'Imagine That' Blu-ray includes all the bonus features found on the DVD, and most are presented in high-definition. Not the greatest collection of supplements, but I'm sure fans of the movie may find something worthwhile here.
'Imagine That' had the opportunity to become the feel-good family comedy it was attempting to be, but really drops the ball by spending way too much time on dry office humor and business humdrum. The tedium will only isolate many adults, while most kids will be quickly assuming the position pictured to the right. Although the film flounders in this regard, at least Paramount has done a great job on this Blu-ray, delivering exceptional video, strong audio, and a sufficient dollop of supplements. That said, it's still a risky rental/purchase for those seeking a truly "family" friendly film.