EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS

If you’re old enough, you remember when a certain little movie from 1984 called “Beverly Hills Cop” ruled the fucking planet. The soundtrack was huge, people were acting and dressing like Eddie Murphy, that damn Harold Faltermeyer song was heard about every five minutes on the radio, and Judge Reinhold became a bizarre household name. The film struck a chord with America, tapping into some previously unknown zeitgeist, and it was a total mess.

I never really liked the movie all that much (big surprise there), and the fact that my brother played the soundtrack on a daily basis really didn’t help the cause. I even remember a friend of mine saying he was going to name his future son Axel. (That child grew up to head a band called Guns ‘N’ Roses. I’m kidding, of course.) I couldn’t escape the monster no matter how hard I tried.

The memories of the film’s impact have stuck with me like the memories of the camps have stuck with the Jews. Not that I’m comparing the two, but some things are so bad you can’t get them out of your head. To this day I can close my eyes at any given moment and visualize the film’s poster without any effort. I can see scenes from it even though I only saw it once and later watched about a half hour on cable just to see if I were wrong about the film. (I wasn’t.) The movie was what it was — a standard Hollywood movie that did far better box office than it should have.

I’ve written about the rise and fall of Eddie Murphy before. This movie was part of his rise. Talk to most people who saw it when it came out, and they have nothing but love for the film. Ask them if they seriously thought it was great, and there aren’t too many who would admit to that. It makes you laugh, but so do the Stooges. (The Three, not Iggy.) There’s no accounting for love and comedy, and this film proves it.

Murphy’s been in better films. (Hell, I thought “Bowfinger” was better.) Few, however, get the reaction this one got … and still gets. It clicks with people in the same way the Macarena and Pet Rocks did. It’s impact is still being felt, too, as I’m sure that at this very moment “Axel F” is being played at some high school dance or wedding. And try to tell me you haven’t heard the song in your head at least once while reading this. See? You can’t.

I’ve heard a weird theory on why crappy movies were so big back then. It has to do with cocaine and the way it impairs one’s judgment. I don’t really buy that theory, though. People have always had crappy taste, it’s just rare for it to be targeted laser-like on one thing. If it were all Eddie Murphy movies I could understand it more, but it’s just this one that really stands out, and it leaves me shaking my head.

If you disagree with me, watch the movie again in a day or so. You can’t watch it right after reading this because you’ll be too jazzed. You have got to wait until after this column isn’t as fresh in your memory. Watch it and write in to tell me if it is as good as you remember it to be. It definitely won’t be better, and I doubt it will be equal to your memories. In fact, I think you’ll get to the credits and say, “Why did I ever like that in the first place?” I don’t have an answer, but there is a lesson here.

Remember “Beverly Hills Cop” the next time everyone is going apeshit over some film like “Home Alone” or “American Pie.” Think about Eddie Murphy and that stupid jacket of his, and think about whether the film you are about to see — the one that everyone is raving about — is going to be like “Beverly Hills Cop” twenty years from now. My guess is that if everyone loves it, it’s very likely it will be a vapid waste that won’t hold up a decade or so (if not sooner) down the road. That’s the rule of BHC, and you read it here first. The more the masses get behind a film (and this doesn’t count for genre films for some strange reason) and adopt it into the culture, the worse that movie will seem years from its peak. That won’t stop fools from embracing it, but it may give you some pause before investing time and money into it.

And if that doesn’t work, just remember “Beverly Hills Cop II.” Now you’re cured.




Posted on May 4, 2006 in Features by
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