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  Golden Child, The Murphesque
Year: 1986
Director: Michael Ritchie
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Charles Dance, Charlotte Lewis, Victor Wong, Randall 'Tex' Cobb, J.L. Reate, James Hong, Shakti Chen, Tau Logo, Tiger Chung Lee, Pons Maar, Peter Kwong, Wally Taylor, Eric Douglas, Charles Levin, Aron Kincaid
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: The Golden Child (J.L. Reate) is the one who will bring goodness to the world, so the prophecies say, and has been living in a Tibetan monastery all his life, blessed with strange powers such as being able to revive deceased parrots. However, there are those who will not tolerate the planet being given over to the nicer aspects of existence, and led by Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance) they conduct a raid on the monastery which sees the child caged and kidnapped, then taken to Los Angeles. Which happens to be the location of The Chosen One, missing persons expert Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy)...

The Golden Child was not the first film to indicate that not every movie Murphy touched turned to, well, gold - Best Defense did far worse than this a couple of years before - but it did show that simply plonking him down in any given situation and encouraging him to make with the wisecracks, preferably with a liberal application of his trademark laugh, did not necessarily create magic. Fresh from the success of Beverly Hills Cop, which illustrated that audiences would flock to his movies no matter how much bad language his jokes included, here the humour was toned down for a family friendly fantasy left many of his fans disappointed.

It was released the same year as John Carpenters' Big Trouble in Little China, which did even worse - the connection? They both tried to incorporate the East Asian style of imaginative action flicks into a Hollywood set up, but this failed to garner the cult reputation that the Carpenter movie had done, and remains something to sit through on TV if there's nothing else worth changing the channel for. Nevertheless, some have found worth in it, but it was so undemanding that's not much of a shock, displaying an oblivious attitude to the Eastern mysticism it purported to support so that all the be at one with the world stuff was far less cool that be able to make butterflies or product placement come to life.

Not mention the other aspects the Golden Child (actually played by a little girl) can conjure up, mind control among them. The Hong Kong versions of such tales scored in the plentiful martial arts as well as a genuinely off the wall sensibility, certainly to Western eyes, which made them an attractive proposition both the audiences and producers. But the West would have to wait for The Matrix for such acrobatics to really take off in their action movies, as Murphy here prefers to throw a good old traditional American punch rather than break out the kung fu. His co-star Charlotte Lewis did try out those moves, but this was evidently not her forte because they tended to revert to her stunt double for the tricky stuff.

Lewis played Kee Nang, Chandler's guide through this strange new world (or old world, really) as he is recruited to track down the missing kid, more thanks to it being prophesised he would than anything else. Besides, Murphy was the star, so it's not as if he would have any chance of failing, and this lack of tension meant the frailties had to be carried by the other characters on his side, though even then we found it hard to believe that anything too terrible would happen by the end credits. Dance earned his money, commendably stony faced as he bore the brunt of the Murphy wit, and far more impressive a villain than anything the special effects department came up with. But it was Eddie's show all the way, dominating the story without contributing anything essential, yet another movie where the human race was in peril yet you were barely troubled by their plight. The Golden Child was far from being Murphy's Ghostbusters. Music by Michel Colombier.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Michael Ritchie  (1938 - 2001)

American director, from television, whose films of the 1970s showed an interesting, sardonic take on America. After sour skiing drama Downhill Racer, he had an unhappy experience on the bizarre Prime Cut before a run of acclaimed movies: political satire The Candidate, the excellent Smile, coarse comedy The Bad News Bears, and another sporting comedy Semi-Tough.

Moving into the 1980s, Ritchie lost his edge with such lukewarm efforts as The Island, underwhelming comedy The Survivors, the not bad Fletch and its very bad sequel, Eddie Murphy vehicle The Golden Child and The Couch Trip, but he made a brief return to form in the early 1990s with boxing comedy Diggstown.

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