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Golden Child, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"What a Waste of Eddie Murphy"
1 stars

Oh, it certainly performed well at the box office, but I'll take the slightly underrated Dudley Moore/Eddie Murphy "Best Defense" instead.

After the box-office smash Beverly Hills Cop launched star Eddie Murphy’s career into the stratosphere, obviously oodles and oodles of scripts made their way onto his desk, so it’s all the more mystifying why Murphy chose this dreadful one by Dennis Feldman to serve as his follow-up. As the Los Angeles private detective Chandler Jarrell, whose specialty is finding lost children, Murphy is his usual phenomenally self-assured self, and at first his performance is surprisingly low-key and the character thoroughly believable. Chandler is one of those ultra-altruistic types who’s forsaken anything resembling a personal life so as to devote himself twenty-four/seven to a calling he was meant for; he lives in a nondescript house and concentrates on his specialty -- turning down more monetarily lucrative work of locating adults, Chandler, whom we suspect had a tumultuous childhood, is feverishly dedicated to this particular facet of his profession. And Murphy, despite the occasional cutting-up, sells us on the character. I could have watched an entire movie centered around his children-locating efforts, but unfortunately The Golden Child unwisely switches gears to function as a fantasy-action picture, and the shortage of humorous situations and bombastic special effects soon take the air right out of the proceedings, and all we’re left with is a big-budget disaster of monumental proportions. It seems there’s a perfect child -- a “golden child” -- born every thousand generations, with the capability of bringing all-encompassing compassion to the world; without him, the Earth will not just go to hell but become Hell because there are dark forces operating that want to slay the child which will in turn overtake the globe with evil. In Tibet, the child in question is kidnapped from his Buddhist temple by the dastardly Sardo (Charles Dance), the Devil’s human incarnate, and for some unexplained reason is transported to Los Angeles and kept hostage in an empty warehouse to wear down his magical prowess. Sardo is attempting to starve him so he’ll eat a bowl of oatmeal with human blood on the bottom, which has come from an “impure” source, that will leave him vulnerable; it turns out the blood is from a sixteen-year-old girl who Chandler has recently been trying to find. And there’s the mysterious beauty Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis) who tries engaging Chandler’s services to locate the golden child whose special powers Chandler naturally doesn’t buy into. But when Chandler sees his case is connected with Kee Nang’s even while laughing off Kee Nang informing him he’s the Chosen One, he agrees to fly to Tibet to obtain an ancient knife that is instrumental in defeating Sardo. This leads to numerous fish-out-of-water scenes with the streetwise Chandler trying to make sense of local customs and being given advice by Tibetan scholars, only Murphy was much funnier when his rules-breaking Detroit cop went up against the martinets of the Beverly Hills police department and the stuck-up airs of the populace. And then the action switches back to L.A. where we’re assaulted with one clunky action sequence after another culminating in one of the lamest grand finales in cinematic history with poor Eddie Murphy going up against something of a stop-motion-animated winged monster while brandishing that almighty knife.

Screenwriter Feldman penned the hilarious teenage Tootsie-inspired Just One of the Guys from the previous year, which had interesting three-dimensional characters, a cluster of detonating lines, and inspired comical situations. Here, he’s certainly attempted something more ambitious with this combination of two completely different genres, but not only are they not congruently integrated where they fluidly mesh, neither the comedy nor the fantasy elements work, thus rendering the movie a huge double negative. The slapdash story doesn’t really play by any set of rules, so we’re confused as to why the golden child can’t overcome Sardo before he’s captured and placed in that warehouse surrounded with evil incantations on all four walls harnessing his power, or why Sardo, who in the first half can disappear and materialize anywhere at will, backs down from ordering Chandler arrested at the airport for stealing what Sardo claims is his sword with the threat of it winding up in a police-evidence locker until Chandler would go to trial when Sardo should easily be able to materialize inside such a room. (Why is it almost always the case that when the movie is good we don’t mind logic loopholes so much?) I never thought we’d be seeing an Eddie Murphy version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, at least while Murphy’s at the height of his popularity, and all one can think is that he didn’t want to repeat himself and wanted to try something new, and yet this is still Eddie Murphy as the ultimate wisecracker and stalwart at improvising his way out of thorny predicaments. (And did the opening-credits montage with Murphy covering the city streets really need the song “You’re the Best Man in the World”? Is this “man” Chandler or Murphy?) The Golden Child is a scandalous waste of its star, but surely Murphy had a say-so over the selection of the supporting actors, with the game Dance not nearly menacing enough and the ultra-wooden Lewis an absolute zero both emotionally and erotically -- Murphy actually has more chemistry during his brief exchanges with Victor Wong, as a foul-mouthed, nose-picking wise old man. In fact, due to director Michael Ritchie’s incompetent staging, Murphy is left cruelly exposed in several instances trying to make work dreary verbiage that isn’t funny the first time and isn’t any funnier when he repeats the same lines, with the camera just sitting there for an eternity; apparently, Ritchie, who provided Chevy Chase his finest two hours in Fletch, and whose other fine movies include the political black comedy The Candidate and high-seas thriller The Island, thinks Murphy can turn everything into a laugh riot, and yet one laugh-deprived scene after another crashes and burns right in front of us. And because Murphy’s co-stars aren’t allowed to be funny (and that includes the poor child actor playing the golden child, who remains stone-faced throughout; at one point Chandler quips that the kid must be on Valium, though having undergone a frontal lobotomy would be more like it), Murphy is left acting in a vacuum, rendering him for the first time in a movie unsure of where exactly the comic impetus in a scene is. The Golden Child is so bad, with jarring shifts in tone thanks to some rather unpleasant violence in certain sections, that it should give audiences reason to give his critically-lambasted turkey Best Defense reconsideration.

The only real positive is that it's more tolerable than the catastrophic "Norbit."

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originally posted: 07/08/15 23:46:32
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell its not golden 1 stars
7/09/15 Charles Tatum A chore to watch; awful 1 stars
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  12-Dec-1986 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Michael Ritchie

Written by
  Dennis Feldman

  Eddie Murphy
  Charlotte Lewis
  Charles Dance
  J.L. Reate
  James Hong

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