Thursday, September 20, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) *½

R, 104 min.
Director: John Landis
Writers: Steven E. de Souza, Danilo Bach (characters), Daniel Petrie Jr. (characters)
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizondo, Theresa Randle, Timothy Carhart, Stephen McHattie, John Saxon, Alan Young, Bronson Pinchot

What the hell happened here? I had never seen “Beverly Hills Cop III” when I stumbled upon the entire series on Netflix Instant last weekend. I remember upon it’s theatrical release that most people didn’t like the third installment, but I had no idea it was this bad.

There was a day when director John Landis was the go to man for comedy mixed with other genres. “The Kentucky Fried Movie”, “Animal House”, “The Blues Brothers”, “An American Werewolf in London”, “Trading Places”, “Coming to America”—Holy crap! What a list of titles! This is the guy that gave the world “Thriller”! Then the 90’s came along and Landis’s work descended into dreck. “Beverly Hills Cop III” did not help his reputation.

The problem is that they remove Axel Foley from the formula that worked so well in the first two movies. He now seems to be a respectable cop. He was always a good detective, but he wasn’t respectable. Now, the filmmakers try to play him off as an everyman hero instead of a street-smart wiseass. The scene where he rescues the kids from the ferris wheel is a big mistake. This is not the situation where Axel F. excels. Making fools of bad guys and police chiefs is what he does best. Screenwriter Steven E. de Souza even misses obvious opportunities for Foley to insult his enemies to their faces.

Setting the movie in an amusement park is also a big miscalculation. The “Beverly Hills Cop” franchise has always been a hard ‘R’ rating. The third one is still a hard ‘R’, but the family friendly setting works against the atmosphere of an adult oriented comedy. If they had approached the park as a place that was the opposite of what you might expect from a family friendly environment, it might have worked. But the park is just what it’s supposed to be, a slightly disguised Disneyland. All the bad dealings are hidden beneath the sunny exterior, and there is no cross over to create awkward situations for the patrons.

I started this series of reviews by saying it’s always nice to return to a film you liked when you were younger to find you still like it. Well, it’s always sad to realize that even though your perceptions from twenty years ago were correct, they really did ruin it for you.

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