The Golden Child (1986)

 

Highlights

  • 1986 Fantasy Comedy starring Eddie Murphy & Charles Dance
  • Directed by the late Michael Ritchie
  • US Box office success with earnings of over $100m
  • Plot involves Murphy as the ‘Chosen One’ to save ‘The Golden Child’, the saviour of all mankind.

The Golden Child is a 1986 American fantasy comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie and starring Eddie Murphy as Chandler Jarrell, who is informed that he is “The Chosen One” and is destined to save “The Golden Child”, the savior of all humankind.

The film was produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures and received a total gross of $79,817,937 at the United States (US) box office.

Synopsis

In a remote temple in Tibet, a young boy with mystical abilities – the Golden Child – receives badges of station and demonstrates his power to the monks of the temple by reviving a dead eastern rosella, which becomes a constant companion and familiar. A mysterious man, Sardo Numspa, has his men break into the temple, slaughter the monks and abduct the boy.

A young woman, Kee Nang, watches a Los Angeles TV show in which social worker Chandler Jarrell talks about his latest case, a missing girl named Cheryll Mosley. Kee seeks him out and informs him of the kidnapping of the Golden Child and that he is the “chosen one” who would save the Child. Chandler does not take this seriously, even after the bird begins following him and seeing an astral projection of the Child. The next day, Cheryll Mosley is found dead near an abandoned house smeared with Tibetan graffiti and a pot full of blood-soaked oatmeal. Kee reveals to Chandler that this house was a holding place for the Child and introduces him to Doctor Hong, a mystic expert, and Kala (a creature half dragon, half woman, who remains hidden behind a screen).

Chandler and Kee track down a motorcycle gang, the Yellow Dragons, which Cheryll had joined, and Chinese restaurant owner Tommy Tong, a henchman of Numspa, to whom Cheryll had been “sold” for her blood, a way to make the Child vulnerable to earthly harm. However, Tong is killed by Numspa as a potential traitor. Still not taking the case too seriously, Chandler is drawn by Numspa into a controlled dream, where he receives a burn mark on his arm. Numspa presents his demands: the Ajanti Dagger (a mystic weapon capable of killing the Child) in exchange for the boy. Chandler finally agrees to help, and he and Kee spend the night together.

Chandler and Kee travel to Tibet, where Chandler is swindled by an old amulet seller, later revealed as the High Priest of the temple where the dagger is kept hidden (and, subsequently, Kee’s father). In order to obtain the blade, Chandler has to pass a test: an obstacle course in a bottomless cavern whilst carrying a glass of water without spilling a drop. With luck and wits, Chandler recovers the blade and even manages to bring it past customs into the United States.

That night, Numspa and his henchmen attack Chandler and Kee. The Ajanti Dagger is lost to the villains, and Kee takes a crossbow bolt meant for Chandler, dying in his arms while confessing her love for him. Doctor Hong and Kala offer him hope: as long as the sun shines upon Kee, the Child might be able to save her. With the help of the Child’s familiar, Chandler locates Numspa’s hideout, retrieves the dagger with the help of Til, one of Numspa’s men converted to good by the Child, and frees the boy. When Chandler confronts Numspa, he reveals himself as a demon. Chandler and the Child escape, only to be trapped inside a warehouse. Chandler loses the dagger when the warehouse collapses, with Numspa buried under falling masonry.

Chandler and the Child head to Doctor Hong’s shop, where Kee is being kept. As the two approach Kee’s body, a badly injured but berserk Numspa attacks Chandler, but the amulet the Old Man sold Chandler blasts the dagger from Numspa’s hand. The Child uses his magic to place the dagger back into Chandler’s hands, and Chandler stabs Numspa through the heart, destroying him. The Child then uses the last rays of sunlight and his powers to bring Kee back from the dead. The three later take a walk discussing the Child’s return to Tibet.

Cast

  • Eddie Murphy as Chandler Jarrell
  • J. L. Reate as The Golden Child
  • Charles Dance as Sardo Numspa
  • Charlotte Lewis as Kee Nang
  • Victor Wong as Old Goupa
  • Randall “Tex” Cobb as Til
  • James Hong as Doctor Hong
  • Shakti Chen as Kala
  • Tau Logo as Yu
  • Tiger Chung Lee as Khan
  • Pons Maar as Fu
  • Peter Kwong as Tommy Tong
  • Wally Taylor as Detective Boggs
  • Eric Douglas as Yellow Dragon
  • Charles Levin as TV Host
  • Marilyn Schreffler as Voice of Kala
  • Frank Welker as Voice of the Thing

Dennis Feldman, a professional photographer whose only writing credit was Just One of the Guys, wrote a script called The Rose of Tibet, which he planned as “a Raymond Chandler movie with supernatural elements.” It attracted Hollywood’s attention and after a bidding war Paramount Pictures purchased the script for $300,000.

As for the “Golden Child” itself, J.L. Reate, who played the male titular character, is actually a female. Her full name is Jasmine Lauren Reate, who was 7 when filming began. This would be her one and only theatrical performance, as she has since gotten out of acting.

Released in December 1986The Golden Child was a box office success. It earned USD$79,817,937 in the United States alone, making it the eighth biggest film of the year. “My pictures make their money back,” Murphy remarked in 1989. “No matter how I feel, for instance, about The Golden Child – which was a piece of shit – the movie made more than $100 million. So who am I to say it sucks?”

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