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original title: The Golden Child
duration: 1h 34min
tags: Eddie Murphy Is The Chosen One.
keywords: harekrishna, monastery, humanity, serpent, searcher, california, freelancer, darkness, evil, leaf, blood, neoscrewballcomedy, child, boy, demon, woman, detective, chosenone, mysticism, asian, temple,
There's just something about that decade. Whether it be for better or for worse, the 80's just had such a distinct style and character, and its one that I grew up with, despite being a 90's kid, as I watched my parents and older sister's favorite films of the 80's and experienced their love for the decade second-hand. I was born in '88, but I wish I had been born a few years prior, so I could have actually had memories of those years first-hand.
And amongst those years, was Eddie Murphy. Now, I know that Murphy has been around since, with a slew of hit comedies in the 90's, and a few recent glimmers of hope at a career revival. But the 80's was the era of Eddie. It's where he reached his prime in classics like "Beverly Hills Cop", "Coming to America" and "Trading Places."
"The Golden Child" is not one of Eddie's classics. It's arguably one of his worst films both plot and production wise, to be honest. It is, however, for all intents and purposes, a fun piece of fluff that literally oozes the 80's vibe, and has enough likability to actually function well as a brain-dead piece of dumb-fun.
Murphy stars as our lead, Chandler Jarrell, a wise-cracking guy who works as... well, he works. I really didn't get what his character was supposed to be. At first, it's implied he's a cop or a detective, but then other scenes seem to suggest he's a social worker (which I've seen mentioned as his profession on other websites)... Yet he also is allowed onto the scene of a murder where he combs through evidence. Perhaps he's a cop who interns at a social work center?
Anywho, Chandler is approached by a pretty young woman named Kee Nang, who informs him that he is the "chosen one", who must save the "Golden Child"- a child with magical powers, whom was kidnapped from Nepal by the villainous Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance), a demonic figure with magical powers of his own.
Chandler, hesitant at first by Kee's bizarre claims, is eventually dragged into the fight to rescue the child when he realizes her claims are true. And so, a struggle to reclaim the magical boy and a mystical dagger begins from the clutches of Numspa begins.
Before I start in on what's wrong with the film, first let me address what is right about it, and why I gave this film a few courtesy points. Eddie Murphy and the cast are enjoyable, and save the film. Murphy, though annoying, does illicit a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of giggles and chuckles throughout the film. Charlotte Lewis, who portrays Kee, is pretty and completely likable as Chandler's guide and potential love interest. Dance is a bit of fun as the villain. And supporting characters portrayed by the likes of Victor Wong, James Hong and J.L. Reate (the eponymous Golden Child, who is actually played by a girl) are a lot of fun. The cast is likable.
Also, the effects in the film are fantastic for the 80's. A lot of stop-motion animation, miniatures and optical effects are utilized (and provided by Industrial Lights and Magic), and they are among the best of the decade. Particularly the stop motion in two sequences (the "dancing Pepsi can" and the big demon creatures who shows up), which are so well- done I completely forgot they were even effects, and thought they were somehow shot in-camera for real. Wonderful effects and animation work.
Now, let's get started on what doesn't work. First, the script, by Dennis Feldman. It barely functions within a storytelling capacity. I already mentioned above the the film is barely able to establish what Chandler's profession is, and it doesn't stop there. The first few scenes are actually well-written, including a cool opening that establishes the Golden Child before he is kidnapped in a cool little heist, and a great comedic scene introducing Chandler. But from there, it falls apart. Almost no attention is given to character development. Chandler is the same character throughout the film- he doesn't grow or become more responsible. Nobody in the film at all has any sort of character arc. And the script seems unable to focus in on the story at all. Scene after scene is jumbled, and nothing is established properly. It's a very poorly written film.
The direction by Michael Ritchie and the editing by Richard A. Harris (both established talents in film) are the other big problem. Ritchie, who is actually a decent filmmaker, seems lost with the material. Shots are very bland and boring, and a lot of them are poorly framed. It felt like his heart wasn't in it at all. And the editing is jarring, foul and creates an uneven pace that will practically give you whiplash. Not only that, but the jarring nature of the editing also creates a lot of continuity problems. It's a poorly crafted film from the directorial and editing perspective.
Also, there are a lot of weird little problems within the film. From wonky costume design, to bizarre inconsistencies within the logic of the filmmaking (including the treatment of Kee, who is alternatingly sexualized and made to look "hot" before suddenly being dressed uber- conservatively and un-sexualized, which happens repeatedly)... It felt like the crew was unaware and unsure of what type of film to make, and kept second-guessing themselves.
"The Golden Child" is a bizarre little film. The performances and the imaginative effects make it worth checking out, but the storytelling and direction is offensively bad. I'd say give it a shot, you might like it, you might not. An average 5 out of 10 for the good which just slightly outweighs the bad. It's not awful; it isn't dull. But The Golden Child is a kids' film, and there are times when Murphy himself seems uncomfortable, as if he knows he's making a movie he wouldn't pay to see. [13 Dec 1986, p.B1]
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