Not strictly vintage Murphy, The Golden Child was made at a time when he was the biggest film star in the world. Undeniably a star vehicle for Murphy’s loud mouth antics, when the film was released back in 1986, the poster deliberately alluded to Beverly Hills Cop, and was pitched in a similar vein by the marketing execs. Of course, all of this couldn’t have been further from the truth since The Golden Child was essentially an expensive B-movie pastiche, that shared a lot in common with another decorative Oriental Hollywood hybrid released in the same year – John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little Chinatown. Unlike Carpenter’s tongue & cheek cult film, and which is endlessly watchable, The Golden Child is a bloated relic of the 1980s with some of Murphy’s lamest gags and Charlotte Lewis as a bot who is undeniably boring, lifeless and severely miscast.
The film was released with a PG rating, and sort of strange today, considering Murphy’s mischievous star entrance sees him eavesdropping on an overweight businessman perving at a porno mag titled ‘Chunky Asses’ and to which Murphy reads out loud ‘Butt Pies’. Moreover, the shot of blood seeping through a pan of porridge is one of many sickly images that conjure a latent tone of dread, subversively so, that often resided in many Hollywood films that were supposedly aimed at children. Charles Dance as a demonic shapeshifter would be joyfully resurrected and parodied in McTiernan’s sublimely overlooked The Last Action Hero.
With hooey allusions to the Dalai Lama, a contemptuous product placement of Pepsi complete with a musical skit, the film’s limited pleasures rests largely on one quite vivid dream sequence in which Murphy’s sarcasm is deconstructed in the presence of a live audience, a self-reflexive gesture. Not terrible, just underwhelming.