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The Golden Child

Eddie Murphy's first film after "Beverly Hills Cop", THE GOLDEN CHILD is a fantasy/adventure comedy that somehow plays better today than it did at the time.

I remember seeing this in theaters in 1986, and while it was a solid hit (grossing $80 million against a $25 million budget) audiences at the time, including me, were left baffled by its strange mix of genres.

Murphy plays private detective Chandler Jarrell, specializing in finding lost children on the wrong side of the LA tracks.

Meanwhile, in Tibet, a gang of fur clad bad guys kidnap The Golden Child from his Andes mountaintop home. The gang's leader is Sardo Lumpsa, well played by Charles Dance, who would bring the same command to later roles in "Alien III" and "Game of Thrones".

Back in LA, Jarrell is approached by a beautiful woman Kee Nang, played by Charlotte Lewis in what would ultimately be her biggest screen role. She has seen Jarrell on TV, aggressively searching for a lost child and she begins following him everywhere.

While she is dead serious trying to get him to find the Golden Child, he spends most of his time thinking she's a nut and trying to seduce her.

Murphy is charming as hell throughout and just as effective in the dramatic scenes sprinkled into the story. As stranger things begin to happen all around him, Jarrell commits to finding the lost boy.

The mid-80's were a fascinating era for special effects. Lucasfilm's ILM were THE state of the art in this time before computer generated effects. By today's standards, the effects that wowed us then look nearly prehistoric now. But there is something charming about the stop motion animation of a soda can that the golden child turns into a tiny dancing man to distract his captors.

Lumpsa's ability to change into animals may look pretty shoddy now, but it was jaw dropping at the time.

Legendary character actor Victor Wong (Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, The Last Emperor) is a lot of fun as Kee Nang's father with a few disguises up his sleeve.

Randall "Tex" Cobb steals the show as a goofball bad guy and J.L. Reate is perfectly cast in her one and only acting job as The Golden Child.

The conclusion is an action-packed showdown between Jarrell & the child and Lumpsa, who's morphed into some crazy demon dragon. It's more exciting than scary, but definitely tougher to watch with today's post CGI eyes.

Originally written as a serious cop drama with Mel Gibson, the story was re-tooled with comedy elements once Murphy committed.

Director Michael Ritchie (Smile, Fletch, The Candidate) manages to navigate the winding road between drama, adventure, comedy and fantasy with a sure hand.

Murphy is on point and I laughed out loud a lot at his wise-ass delivery. He nails it.

On his way down into a cavern to try and survive an Indiana Jones type test of his abilities, he mutters, "Only a man whose heart is pure can wield the knife, and only a man whose ass is narrow can get down these steps. And if mine's is such an ass, then I shall have it".

Murphy's face-off against Lumpsa at LAX when he returns from Tibet is a comic highlight with Murphy seemingly ad-libbing his way through a hilarious standoff against Lumpsa and a bunch of airport cops.

Murphy followed up this film with "Beverly Hills Cop II" the following summer and "Coming to America" the year after that, taking his box office stardom and fame to new heights.

THE GOLDEN CHILD has been somewhat forgotten amongst his other monster hits of the time, but still serves up plenty of laughs and thrills nearly 40 years later.

I'll give it a B-.

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