Remember September: Respectful Reel Review #18 — The Golden Child (1986)


The Golden Child




Dark Fantasy, Comedy, Horror


J. L. Reate, Eddie Murphy, Charles Dance, Charlotte Lewis, Victor Wong, Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb, James Hong


Michael Ritchie


When a Tibetan youth with mystical powers called the Golden Child is kidnapped by an evil sorcerer, an investigative specialist that works with the Los Angeles Police Department is tasked as “the Chosen One” to find and protect the child. The specialist is an unbeliever but as he investigates evidence of occultism and demonic forces grow to a point where they can no longer be denied.


Eddie Murphy is the Chosen One.


On the snow-crusted spires of Tibet a Buddhist temple sits where a congregation of monks watch as a young boy, the Golden Child, (J. L. Reate) demonstrates his mystical powers by reviving a bird who becomes his familiar throughout the movie. The ceremony is interrupted by Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance) and his henchmen that slaughter the monks and desecrate the temple before abducting the child.

Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy) is a social worker / special investigator for finding lost children. He has gone on a public access television program to seek assistance in the disappearance of Cheryll Mosley when Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis), a mysterious young woman representing the Tibetan monks sees Jarrell on the television and recognizes him as the Chosen One.

When Kee finds Chandler Jarrell she talks to him about the Golden Child, that he is a special child gifted with mystic abilities, that the child has been kidnapped, and that Jarrell (as the chosen one) must protect the child from harm. Chandler laughs off the mystical aspects of Kee’s story, but as he investigates a bird appears to him to follow and he sees the The Golden Child in an astral projection.

When Cheryll Mosley’s dead body is found in a derelict house, Chandler shows up at the crime scene. As he examines the kitchen where a pot of oatmeal sits on the stove, Kee shows up to explain that the oatmeal mixed with Cheryll Mosley’s blood is meant as a corruption to make the Golden Child vulnerable to magic, just as the runes on the walls were meant to act as a holding place for the child.

Kee introduces Chandler to Dr. Hong (expert on mysticism) and Kala (a half woman half dragon that shelters behind a screen) who try to explain the plot to initiate an apocalyptic event involving the death of the Golden Child. Of course, Chandler thinks they are nuts.

After Kee and Chandler track down the motorcycle gang that kidnapped Cheryll, they fight them. Chandler had told Kee to hang back while he questioned the Yellow Dragons, but luckily she ignored him because Chandler was being worked over by the gang. After questioning one of the remaining gang members still conscious, they find out about Sardo Numspa who is the evil cult leader attempting to provoke the Golden Child to cause an evil to be birthed in the world that has never been witnessed before.


There is still more to this movie, but since we do not reveal spoilers, I think I will stop right here. This movie is rife with Tibetan mysticism and although it seems hokey in several spots, there is more depth to this movie than is typical of an Eddie Murphy comedic vehicle. In fact, near the end there is an epic battle that includes demons and other horrific elements.

Generally in an Eddie Murphy movie, there is crass humor, replete with scatological jokes, cruel poking fun at things and people, irreverent and blatant meanness that seems to be missing here. Let me be clear, this is a PG movie so some of the typical F-bombs are missing, but there is something here that is NOT prototypical of Eddie Murphy movies. This movie has heart and just sheer goodness. Let me explain.

In The Golden Child, Eddie Murphy plays a serious, professional, social worker who is focused on finding missing children, and bringing those who harm children to justice. Chandler Jarrell is a GOOD man; not a perfect man, but a good-hearted man, which makes him eminently likeable.

In one of the scenes, Kee confesses to the High Priest of her order: “I like this man!” as if she is surprised by it. He responds: “I like him, too.” And I guess, for me, this is a very common response to this movie. Sure, Eddie Murphy wisecracks his way though this movie, but what is different, is that there is a general goodness to Eddie Murphy’s character in this movie. He has heart, and even though people keep calling him the chosen one, he does not believe it. “I am just a regular guy just trying to do something good.”

The script is really first rate. I do not know how much of Murphy’s lines were ad-libbed, extemporaneous does not always fit, but here in the harsh reality where kidnapped kids sometimes die and mystical occurrences have not been part of his every day, his lines seem to flow. The unreality catches him off kilter, but he remains cool, dignified even despite the “WTF!” moments.

The cinematography is good with special effects being just okay. The final fight scene that is supposed to be epic is really not, but this is a sweet movie. A good movie with good characters and a lot of laughs. Even after so many years, I like this movie a lot. This is not a perfect movie, but it certainly has heart, and in the end, what more could you possibly want from a movie.

A very good addition to the Eddie Murphy pantheon = 3 and a half Grey Geeks out of 5.

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