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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Retro Review: The Golden Child (1986)

The Golden Child
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Charlotte Lewis, Charles Dance, Victor Wong, James Hong
Genre: Fantasy Comedy 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $79 million 

Plot: A private detective specialising in missing children is charged with the task of finding a special child who dark forces want to eliminate 

'Far From Golden, A Comedy Film That Takes Itself Far Too Seriously & Lacking In Excitement'

Films featuring or starring Asian- Americans, or be it more specifically, Chinese Americans in protagonist-based roles have been very few and far between, although The Joy Luck Club and Big Trouble In Little China are pretty much the best indicators of this area. The Golden Child was released in the same year of 1986 as the John Carpenter film, and although it fared better than Big Trouble at the box office, mainly due to the casting of Eddie Murphy, of which helped in selling more seats, for me personally, as a spectacle, this film, by comparison, is not as good. 

Murphy is Chandler Jarrell: a social worker who becomes the 'chosen one' and destined to save and rescue the Golden Child, the saviour of mankind and a young Tibetan boy.

Fresh from his success in Beverly Hills Cop that came out in 1984, that film just showed that audiences were ready for more of Eddie Murphy's wisecracks and comedic hijinks. And again, he plays a cop/private investigator; but here, his humour is downplayed for a family-friendly fantasy comedy, and one in particular, that didn't endear him to his many fans, who preferred his motormouth, and at times gut-busting offerings. Coupled with a not very imaginable and amusing script, The Golden Child didn't and doesn't live up to its actual billing as a comedy and the whole thing feels very underwhelming, as well as undemanding. 

The story lacks charm and depth, the direction by Michael Ritchie is blander (and this coming from someone who enjoyed his other efforts in Fletch, The Survivors and Wildcats) and it's sort of interesting that Big Trouble In Little China bombed and The Golden Child was a huge success; yet over time it is the former that has since gone on to become a cult classic and better received than it was in 1986. I see to it more and more people have grown attached to that film, whereas with this film, it is the complete opposite and rarely anyone speaks of it being in the same light. & with good reason; I always favoured Big Trouble In Little China and didn't really get into The Golden Child, because I didn't enjoy it as a much when I was younger.... and as an adult, that argument still stands, 30 years later. 

Its plot most certainly didn't grab or entice me straight away and it needed to have something to draw me in. Sadly, it didn't really have it in The Golden Child.

The fight scenes just don't have the same potency as in Big Trouble and they aren't as entertaining to watch. Murphy prefers to throw a few punches, whereas co-star Charlotte Lewis did display a few martial arts moves but left the trickier work to her stunt double. Her romance with Eddie Murphy just didn't work and their chemistry was just wasn't on the same wavelength as each other and it feels too forced. And though it was great to see Victor Wong and James Hong, I felt that they were underutilised here. But of course, we would see more of them in Big Trouble in Little China as Eg Shen and Lo Pan. Charles Dance manages to evoke that dark presence & thus forth, he made for a convincing antagonist. Even with the limp material. & the special effects are decent to look at. 

Like Big Trouble in Little China, The Golden Child dealt with themes of Chinese mysticism and fantasy, but whereby it differs from that film is The Golden Child seeks to mock the genres of Comedy, action and fantasy, rather than celebrate and embrace them. And I think that, despite it being financially successful than Big Trouble, is what hurts this film. 

It has been also said that the Tibetan boy is indeed played by a girl, but that is something I need to delve more into in finding out. 

I enjoy most of Eddie Murphy's movies of the 1980s and 1990s - even though the '90s wasn't a fairly great period for him, film-wise; yet with this one though it's not by far the worst he has done, the story just wasn't good or interesting enough, nor is it as equally funny. & for that, this offering is not entirely meaningful. 

(yes, they are the same person)

Final Verdict:

What befalls The Golden Child is that although Eddie Murphy's humour is toned down and downplayed, this is at the expense of the action, which is rather minuscule, and the lacklustre narrative, which lacks real excitement and vigour and is not written very well, either. Add to that it takes the subject far too seriously for a comedy, that absurdity and silliness could have benefited this film greatly. Yet instead, it became a tough sell for audiences and compared to Big Trouble In Little China, this is not wholly watchable from beginning to end. 

The Golden Child is not exactly terrible per-se, but neither is it great in my eyes; whereas John Carpenter's offering has plenty of re-watch-ability factor, Michael Ritchie's effort, sadly doesn't. 



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