Follow That Bird

Partway through The Golden Child, Eddie Murphy chugs a glass of water and puts out a flame. Unknowingly, that’s almost what this movie did to Murphy’s career.

Golden Child isn’t terrible. It’s weird, surreal, and odd, certainly leaving no question the comedian was willing to take chances. Murphy hit a hot streak on R-rated comedy though, and Golden Child sits teetering on PG-13, more a teen fantasy, sold on Murphy’s exuberance.

Big Trouble in Little China effectively challenged Golden Child the same year. One became a cult classic, the other not. Golden Child’s pertinent issue isn’t Murphy, primarily, as he talks his way through things. A priceless airport sequence recalls Beverly Hills Cop, letting Murphy go to create a character on-the-spot and BS his way out of trouble. That’s great. Even the inoffensive movie romance, schlocky and traditional as it is, at least adds mild character.

Golden Child is funny but smushed by Murphy’s other output during the decade

The greater concern is Golden Child’s messy, abrasive attitude. In a sense, Golden Child merely reflects a western rejection of foreign culture. Murphy doesn’t merely dismiss his “chosen one” status, he openly disrespects it. Standing on pedestals, hovering over a bottomless pit, he still defies this reality, even after learning a dream left a scar on his arm. Until the final battle (a perky ILM showcase with stop motion and other elements) Murphy only demeans rather than acknowledge.
Credited to Dennis Feldman, the script plays into that bias too, creating a world where anyone vaguely Asian can do kung-fu flips.

As to whether Golden Child is funny, it is, but smushed by Murphy’s other output during the decade. Against that comedic wall, Golden Child looks feeble. Creative, but mundane. Behind-the-scenes, the story goes this was initially a dramatic play on a culture clash, then adjusted once they signed Murphy. That feels right, because at times, Golden Child plays deadly serious. And, likely, why the put downs in Nepal play as abrasive rather than funny. Considering this was 1986, mere years before the “free Tibet” movement took hold, there’s a decided mean streak in retrospect.

There’s nostalgic value now, including the obvious ‘80s score and charming visual effects work. It’s a story surrounding the cast with movie magic, not the opposite method as seen today. Plus, the wins for Murphy remain highlights, funny pieces, that never quite fit into the mish-mash puzzle.

Video

Paramount puts forth a sizable effort, transferring the film stock at 4K, and leaving the material alone. Gorgeous film grain is easily resolved by spacious encoding. There’s not a speck or a mark anywhere on the print.

While frequently shot with soft focus, detail still flourishes. Facial texture appeases those looking for prime catalog viewing. Location exteriors and long shots all work to a precise, clear point. Time takes nothing away from this cinematography, preserved here with careful hands.

Bright contrast further belies age. Consistency keeps everything perky, aided by pure black levels. Golden Child relies on both ends, swapping scenery between light and dark, both represented flawlessly. Color likewise excels, generously saturated and thankfully minus any sign of modern tinkering. Primaries sustain their peak for the full runtime.

Audio

Surround material serves a supporting role, leaving the stereos to handle most positional activity. Winds swirl around and bikers passing nicely transition front to back when driving by. During action scenes, the front soundstage makes a significant split, accurately capturing the visuals as they dance around. The score finds some headway too in swelling outward.

Passable LFE drives a little into the low-end, rumbling here and there, while giving the music range. A final explosion doesn’t hold back. Overall pleasing fidelity exposes no weaknesses in the source.

Extras

Just a 13-minute making of, split into two parts. Some vintage and some retrospective interviews fill the time. It’s somewhat comical to hear Murphy state the script was one of the best he ever read, yet only a few years later, he trashed it.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Golden Child
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

While inconsistent and Eddie Murphy struggles to hold things together, The Golden Child’s high points happen consistently enough.

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