Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) / Comedy-Action

MPAA Rated: R for language and violence
Running Time: 104 min.

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizondo, Theresa Randle, Timothy Carhart, Bronson Pinchot, Alan Young, John Saxon
Cameo: Jon Tenney, Joey Travolta, Al Green, George Lucas, Martha Coolidge, Julie Strain, Joe Dante, Helen Martin, Arthur Hiller, Ray Harryhausen, Barbet Schroeder, John Singleton
Director: John Landis

Screenplay: Steven E. de Souza
Review published January 29, 2008

The most comedic of the Beverly Hills Cop films turns out to be the least amusing, despite a veteran director (Landis, An American Werewolf in London) and screenwriter (de Souza, Hudson Hawk), ones who have worked with Murphy before to success, signing on.  Contriving yet again a reason for Axel Foley (Murphy, The Distinguished Gentleman) to go to Beverly Hills, we see Axel an eyewitness to his police chief's murder at the hand of Ellis de Wald (Carhart, Thelma & Louise), a security expert working for a Disney-ish theme park named Wonder World , who is involved in a car stealing and counterfeiting operation.  Teaming up once again with Billy Rosewood (Reinhold, Vice Versa), Axel decides to head out to the amusement park to get to the bottom of what's going on, but finds de Wald too respected in the community (he is set to receive a big award for his work), and even Rosewood can't fathom him doing anything as vile as murder.  Foley once again must annoy the criminals into coming out and showing their true selves.

Eddie Murphy's attempt to return back to the forefront of A-list movie stars wouldn't happen with Beverly Hills Cop III, as it reminds us all to often that his comedic gifts were too familiar to carry a film like this anymore.  We've seen Axel Foley before, and seen his fish-out-of-water personality in Beverly Hills, and now in his third tour of the area, he isn't much of a stranger.  In the first film, Axel was humble, the second a big shot, and now he is desperate and willing to do anything to complete his mission, much like Eddie Murphy himself would be as an actor in each of his respective roles.  Murphy is still a force to watch, but clearly, the script for this third outing requires a comedian to ad-lib above and beyond the material, which wasn't going to happen after all of the comedic possibilities in Axel's story had been milked dry.

Landis' Trading Places and Coming to America ranked among Murphy's better efforts in the 1980s, and it is a smart move to go with a director proven to deliver success with a star.  Screenwriter de Souza also contributed to Murphy's rise with his breakthrough role in 48 Hrs., and its follow-up, Another 48 Hrs.  As funny as those films are, what they all have is some inspiration in their plots, and a good cast of comedic actors all around for Murphy to play against.  Despite a decent cast of character actors, only Reinhold and Pinchot have real comedic personalities, and we've seen both of them do their shtick already in the series -- they merely regurgitate the same material for laughs that have dwindled since seeing them do it in countless viewings on video and cable.

De Souza's script aims not at Foley's outsider status so much as seeing violence taking place in and around a theme park full of families and young children.  If you think it funny to see men in cartoon character costumes getting punched or are thrilled that Ferris wheels can crash down with people in peril, while obnoxiously good-spirited WonderWorld music plays in the background, perhaps some of this material will have mileage with you.  It's much more slapstick than wit this time out, and though Murphy is certainly game, this material works better in comedies that aren't R-rated.  Murphy would try a couple of R-rated excursions with his misfire follow-ups, Vampire in Brooklyn and Metro, but would achieve box office success only by putting his newfound love of slapstick and silliness in more family friendly fare like The Nutty Professor and Doctor DolittlePerhaps Landis knew all along that a kid-centric setting like WonderWorld is where Murphy belongs, and even if Axel Foley doesn't.

-- Follows Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills Cop II.

Qwipster's rating:

2008 Vince Leo