"Imaginary" has more unintentional giggles than scares or imagination

Imaginary (2024)

There is a solid framework here for a horror movie about a malevolent imaginary friend — or even a killer plush toy. It’s too bad that director Jeff Wadlow’s "Imaginary" is done few favors in the mostly flat execution by not being playfully malevolent enough.

DeWanda Wise is warm and charismatic as Jess, a successful children’s book illustrator who moves back into her family home on Elm Street with her new husband, musician Max (Tom Payne), and two stepdaughters, teenage Taylor (Taegen Burns) and 8-year-old Alice (a very precocious Pyper Braun). When Max leaves to go on tour, Jess is left with the girls for some much-needed stepmommy time. The youngest, Alice, finds a stuffed bear named Chauncey behind a small door in the basement and quickly develops an attachment, which ends up jogging Jess’ repressed memories of her own childhood trauma. Unfortunately, Chauncey is always “hungry,” likes scavenger hunts, and makes Alice do bad things.

Glimmers of the gateway-horror effort that this could have and should have been come through here and there, waiting to break free and really go nuts. For starters, DeWanda Wise instills Jess with rooting interest and can elevate even some of the stiffest dialogue. Her makeup is also always spot-on in every scene, but who said you can’t look radiant when being scared by an imaginary pal? It’s always nice to see Betty Buckley show up, classing up the role of nosy neighbor Gloria, even when she has to convince us of some laughable exposition and character motivations. This is the only movie in which you’ll ever hear a veteran actress say, “Bing Bong” (as in the imaginary friend from Pixar’s "Inside Out"). Read the full review at GuyAtTheMovies.com

Grade: C -

Lionsgate released "Imaginary" (104 min.) in theaters on March 8, 2024.