The Golden Child Blu-ray Review: A Classic Callback to When Films Were Fun

Once upon a time, in a century past, during a decade called the Eighties, there was a legendary man who was no mere mortal. He was loved by millions for his edgy comedic style. But not only was he known for his standup comedy, but he also starred in some of the most famous sketches on a television show called Saturday Night Live. As he blossomed into stardom a small television show could no longer contain his immense talents and the silver screen beckoned him away. In that magical place his celebrity intensified as he became the biggest box-office star of the time starring in such films as 48 HRs, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America.

But alas, that was a long time ago in a past that few people can even remember. To this very day, people still wonder whatever happened to this once giant celebrity. Is he still alive? Did he return to his planet of superior beings from whence he came? Or does he still walk amongst us and is just hiding in seclusion, waiting until the world needs him once again and then he will return triumphantly to save us all from the bland and boring remakes and reboots that are a plague on society? Some rumors say that a witch turned him into a donkey where he spends his days around a giant green ogre and a swashbuckling cat in fancy boots. But even I find that theory hard to believe.

Whatever became of him, there are still remnants that remain of his existence. And during this holiday season, like the bright star that once led to a manger, The Golden Child has been released on Blu-ray, a reminder of the miraculous films that once starred the awe-inspiring Eddie Murphy.

In this classic film, Murphy plays Chandler Jarrell, a finder of lost children. He is currently searching for a missing 16-year-old girl. During his investigation, Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis) approaches him needing help finding another child that has been abducted. But this isn’t your normal everyday kidnapping. Not only did this occur in Tibet, but the victim is a young monk known only as the Golden Child (J.L. Reate), a mystical child with magical powers that is destined to save the world. And the people who took him are led by a demon called Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance).

Jarrell is skeptical at first, but when he finds out the two cases are interlinked and strange things begin to happen, he slowly starts to believe. But of course, that will take most of the film for him to come to the full realization of the truth, which is good for the audience because it allows him to crack jokes and be a smartass during most of the film without taking the situations of a murdered girl, a child kidnapped by evil cult members, a quest for a magical dagger, and an ultimate battle with a demon too seriously.

The story is entertaining. The actors are good. It’s a fun overall film. A few times the Old Man (Victor Wong) manages to steal a few scenes. Not only is he a match for Jarrell, but he one-ups him several times, which adds both a comic and quest-driven rival to the mix.

The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p and remastered from a 4K film transfer with a 5.1 DTS-HD Dolby Audio.  The video quality was surprisingly good considering the film is from 1986. It looked like it could have been filmed today and had great clarity even during the darker scenes. The one thing that gave away that it had been filmed so long ago was that it is not quite as vibrant as today’s films. The colors just didn’t pop enough. Not really a big deal, but I was really studying the visual aspects. The audio quality was flawless. The sound was well mixed and turning up the volume to max did not cause any distortion or quality issues. The surround sound could have been used a little more. The voices came from the main speaker while the sides played mostly music. The only time a difference was noticed was during a couple of explosions, the best one being when the bridge exploded and you are suddenly immersed in a massive explosion from all sides.

The Blu-ray contains one Special Feature, “The Making of The Golden Child” broken into two separate parts:

“The Chosen Ones” brings the cast along with director Michael Ritchie and writer Dennis Feldman to discuss the process of creating the story, the different characters involved, and the flexibility of letting Murphy ad-lib some of his dialogue. One of the best things about the features is that they were all recorded around that same time the film was done instead of bringing back the cast some 30+ years later to reminisce. This is not the way most releases are currently done and made it more interesting because of that aspect.

“Daggers, Design and Demons” is more of a look at the special effects. Some of the more interesting facts were that they were done by Industrial Light and Magic, you can film scenes that occur in Tibet at Mammoth, and that Eddie Murphy really getting punched in the face did not look real enough to make it into the film. According to Ritchie “reality does not look as good as heightened reality”.

There was also a theatrical trailer. The quality of which appeared to be right off an ’80s television set, very grainy and somewhat blurry. And as many trailers, it gave away too many details and jokes in the film.

The Golden Child has always been one of my favorite films. There’s a perfect blend of comedy and action to be entertaining over multiple viewings. It has that classic Eddie Murphy character with a mix of fantasy adventure. The scene with his stamp on it is the one where he smuggles the dagger through the Tibetan airport pretending to be a government official and thanking security for absolutely nothing. And speaking from personal experience, if you act like you know what you are doing, it’s amazing what you can get away with just like he does.

There’s nothing really negative that I can say about this Blu-ray release. It sounds good, looks good, and the film still holds up today. I’ve always had an issue with the bad animation of the demon near the end of the film, but that was done by Industrial Light and Magic, which was the pinnacle of special effects in the ’80s. I guess maybe I do have one little complaint, but if that’s all I can nitpick about, I’ll still be watching this film whenever I get the chance.

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Todd Karella

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