Because of a work obligation, my husband missed one of our children’s final school concerts—nine years ago—and I still feel bad. I know, I know, it’s time to let it go. (I’m sure my husband and son have long forgotten it.) But I thought of that again during a screening of Imagine That where writers presented moms and dads with a perfect fairytale approach to their parenting dilemmas.
In the film, Evan Danielson (Eddy Murphy) is right in the middle of a career meltdown. Yet he is lucky enough to have a boss who tolerates children at the office and allows his employee to walk out during an important client presentation to take care of family matters. After being summoned by the school, Evan discovers that the hubbub is over his seven-year-old daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi) and the security blanket she carries around the playground to escape into an imaginary world full of princesses and dragons. The school principal chalks up the girl’s behavior to the recent breakup between Evan and his wife Trish (Nicole Ari Parker).
Unfortunately both parents are so involved with big projects at work that they have little time to deal with Olivia’s issues. That is until Olivia passes on some financial directives from the pretend princesses. Although Evan initially scoffs at the suggestions, he is suddenly back on his game and squelching his corporate competitor (Thomas Haden Church) when the investment predictions come true. Yet before long, Evan has merely replaced his obsessive dependence on his Blackberry with a reliance on Olivia’s imaginary friends.
While this script contains relatively mild amounts of content concern, those who want to make this film a family event should be aware that Evan’s presentation of investment advice from the princesses includes the use of numerous slang terms for fecal matter. Evan also has a co-worker who sets himself apart from the other financial executives in the office by playing up his Native American heritage. Unfortunately his actions often reflect negative stereotypes. Later, an adult force-feeds his child cans and cans of a caffeinated energy drink in an attempt to induce inspired financial recommendations.
Despite some brief Eddie Murphy antics that include silly singing and dancing in the streets, this film is obviously aimed much more at parents than children. But adults likely won’t be comforted by the story’s saccharine solution to balancing home and work responsibilities. Playing by a different set of rules, most movie parents live in upscale homes, even if they are separated or divorced. Money rarely seems to be a problem. Office assistants are happy to watch your child at work and almost every boss eventually comes around to appreciate your decision to put family first. In other words, life in the movies rarely reflects reality. Imagine that!