“Eddie Murphy followed up his Beverly Hills Cop success with this fantasy adventure that plops him right into the land of Ray Harryhausen and Indiana Jones. The plot revolves around a God-like youngster (J.L. Reate) known as a "golden child," who has been sent to Tibet to bring the gift of compassion to humanity. But the devil isn't idle, sending his emissary, Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance) to kidnap the golden child. Sardo absconds with the child and takes off to Los Angeles. In L.A., a beautiful Tibetan priestess named Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis) seeks out Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy), a social worker and self-styled "finder of lost children." She tells Chandler he has been chosen to rescue the magical child from the devil and save the world from evil. Before Chandler can let go of his first riposte, he finds himself holding a magic dagger, following a sacred parakeet, and under-going several trials by fire. He also falls in love with Kee Nang, who at one point in the film has to be brought back from the dead.” ~ Rovi’s All-Movie Guide
In 1984, Eddie Murphy starred in a little movie called Beverly Hills Cop. Made for $12,000,000, Murphy’s first solo venture went on to make around $235,000,000 domestically, over fifteen times its production budget. Admittedly, that’s a pretty tough act to follow. So when The Golden Child came out in 1986 and only made a meager three to four times its cost, it was immediately declared by the studios to be a major disappointment (yeah, I know, the recent Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug only broke even domestically, but hey, people have their expectations). On top of the box office numbers, the critics (with the inexplicable exception of Roger Ebert) were merciless, tossing around terms like half-baked, contrived, and (one of my favorites) indefensible rubbish. By almost everyone’s standards, The Golden Child was deemed a failure.
Everyone, that is, except for the audiences who were rolling around in the aisles laughing (not really recommended given the condition of most theater floors). Oh sure, they may not have come back to see The Golden Child a third or fourth time the way they did with Beverly Hills Cop, but for that single evening they were sitting in front of the screen, they loved it. All credit for that has to go to Eddie Murphy, of course. I know it’s hard to believe with films like Norbit and The Adventures of Pluto Nash stinking up the cineplexes these days, but there was once a fabled time when watching Eddie Murphy was like getting a master class in comedy. And that’s a fortunate thing for The Golden Child because, other than Murphy, the only other worthwhile things the flick has to offer are a couple of scenes featuring the irreplaceable Victor Wong (Egg Shen from Big Trouble In Little China) and a few instances of lovable, yet unmistakably second rate stop motion animation. The rest… not so good.
Rumor has it The Golden Child was originally conceived as an action vehicle for Mel Gibson, and you can tell. The film has all the standard trappings of a typical 1980s action movie. There’s biker gangs and ninjas and Randall 'Tex' Cobb and Heart’s Anne Wilson singing a radio ready rock anthem over the opening credits. It’s very easy to picture a pre-Lethal Weapon Mel running around Tibet and making quips as he picks off bad guys. But when Gibson passed on the project, the decision was made to bring in Murphy and rewrite the thing as a comedy. Which would be fine, except what’s on screen doesn’t seem like they rewrote too much at all. Sure, whenever Eddie’s in a scene ad-libbing it’s funny, but in all the one’s in which he’s a no-show, everybody is way too serious, almost as if no one but the main character's lines were actually changed from the original script. The end result is that the whole thing feels like Eddie Murphy walked onto a set where a bunch of strangers were filming a sub-par 1980s Temple Of Doom rip-off and just started ragging on everybody.
And really, that kind of makes it all the more funny, not to mention infinitely more quotable. Yeah, The Golden Child is another one of those 80s movies where you and your friends watch it, and then spend the next thirty years or so tossing lines from it back and forth. You can no longer greet each other normally, but instead have to grab each other in a bear hug exclaiming, “My dear sweet brother, Numsie!” Whenever you accidentally startle somebody, instead of apologizing, you just assure them, “"Its alright… I just want some chips." And you can never again just politely ask someone to pass you some silverware, you have to rap, “I–uh-I-uh-I want the knife!” Of course, it only works if you do it in your best Eddie Murphy impression, because that’s also the only way it works in the movie. Minus Murphy’s delivery, none of those quotes are actually funny.
In a way, I suppose that makes the real life Eddie Murphy somewhat analogous to his character in The Golden Child. They’re both the “chosen one” who saves the day; movie Murphy rescues the bald headed boy (who for some inexplicable reason is played by a girl) and helps usher in an age of… it’s actually not very clear, an age of not-hell I suppose, while real life Eddie rescues a bunch of 1980s bit players from getting stuck in movie hell, because if he hadn’t signed on the film would have probably ended up starring Michael Dudikoff or Don “The Dragon” Wilson. Of course, if such a thing had happened people would’ve still watched the movie and laughed, just not because they were supposed to. Let’s face it, not everyone’s cut out to be a chosen one.
Now if you just have to have a whole bunch of chosen ones, then the Bible has more than its fair share, although it usually refers to them as ‘anointed’ rather than ‘chosen’. As the Catechism explains, “In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets.” So, in that sense, folks like Aaron and Saul and David were chosen ones singled out to fulfill certain tasks for God. And once the prophets showed up, they started hinting around (as Malachi does in this week’s first reading) about a special chosen one who would be anointed above his peers and bring salvation to God’s people. Now obviously we Christians believe that big chosen one turned out to be Jesus the Christ. That’s right, “the Christ.” A lot of folks these days forget that was a title, not his last name. “The word ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means ‘anointed’. It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that ‘Christ’ signifies.”
This weeks readings are part of the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, one of those instances in the Gospels where people recognized Jesus as the Christ. But even though the day is all about him, like almost everything in his life, Jesus makes his anointing participatory. As the Catechism explains it, “Jesus is Christ, "anointed," because the Spirit is his anointing, and everything that occurs from the Incarnation on derives from this fullness. When Christ is finally glorified, he can in turn send the Spirit from his place with the Father to those who believe in him: he communicates to them his glory, that is, the Holy Spirit who glorifies him. From that time on, this joint mission will be manifested in the children adopted by the Father in the Body of his Son.”
Because we share in Jesus’ anointing, all believers become ‘priests’ in a certain sense. Of course, this ‘universal priesthood’ doesn’t mean we can all offer the Sacraments like the ministerial priesthood can (another post for another time). But hey, not everybody can be as funny as Eddie Murphy either. What we are ‘chosen’ to do in our priesthood is offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and to consecrate this crazy secular world through our work and our witness. That may not rate us a cool 80s rock anthem, but it ain’t too bad.