Uncharted Cinema #16: The Golden Child


Michael Ritchie, USA, 1986, 94 min.

Read about the Uncharted Cinema Project here.

Before: I missed this one somehow. I always wanted to see it, because you should always give a chance to any 80’s Eddie Murphy film. Looking forward to some comedy.

After: This film does not age well. It’s take on oriental mysticism is out-dated and the effects are obviously behind the times.

Normally, I’m always willing to give a film a pass on things like that, even going as far as to say I find them charming, but this one didn’t work for me.

Eddie Murphy plays Chandler Jarell, an inner city private eye with a heart and a sense of humor who wants to do some good for the community. Meanwhile, in Tibet, a magical young boy is kidnapped by some bad guys with supernatural powers.

The two stories collide when Murphy is hired to track down the child and realizes that this case has ties to a missing girl he was already looking for.

Murphy is good. His dialog and reactions work within the context of what is going on. He keeps his character likeable where other people in that role wouldn’t be. Because, let’s be honest here, Chandler Jarell is kind of a dick.

He doesn’t believe any of what is happening and spends most of the first half of the film hitting on Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis), a follower of the golden child who is trying to help get him back.

Eventually, Chandler learns the truth and everyone gets drawn together for the supernatural climax. But getting there was a bit of a chore. The pacing is off, and the tone varies too much between scenes. It’s hard to become invested in what’s going on because everything seems mashed together in ways that don’t feel natural.

The film does give Murphy some room to shine, but overall it was forcing itself to be all things at once. Comedy, action, horror, drama, romance, supernatural mystery, martial arts, etc. And it never does justice to any of them.

Handled with a little more care The Golden Child could have been an enjoyable mess. Instead, it was just a mess.

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