I remember it well. The night way back in 1981 when Eddie Murphy exploded into public consciousness on Saturday Night Live with the classic Little Richard Simmons sketch. I was never really even a fan of the show, but we were tuned in. A group of friends and I were astonished. Just as millions of others were.

Eddie Murphy was a comedy dynamo, and was still a a nineteen year old kid. He quickly became the most popular comedian on the planet. His stand up show, Delirious, was insanely popular. Yes, it was offensive to many people. So much of what came out back then is unacceptable today. He later apologized for some of his politically incorrect jokes. He was so young. I give him a break, and honestly, he targeted just about everyone in Delirious and Raw. Gay people, straights, white, black, men and women. Since then he has donated money to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. He has also given funds to various arts and health associations, as well as to the Screen Actors Guild Foundation strike fund.

Movies were the next inevitable step, and Murphy's debut couldn't have been a better choice. He starred next to Nick Nolte in director Walter Hill's buddy cop film, 48 Hours. It's fast, it's funny, and the story actually works. Hill is one of the best action directors of all time, and it's one of his better pictures.

Eddie worked for John Landis in a comedy of manners called Trading Places. It's no 48 Hours, but I always enjoyed the movie. Murphy and Dan Aykroyd should have worked together again.

Then, in 1984 and the height of his popularity, came Beverly Hills Cop. It was a movie in production hell, with Mickey Rourke and Sylvester Stallone attached to the project at various times, but Murphy was brought on and the movie was made.

Beverly Hills Cop wound up being one of the biggest hits of the entire decade. Despite the inescapable conclusion that it isn't a particularly good movie.

The whole thing, with the endless funk-pop soundtrack and flashy visuals, looks like a long-form music video. The plot is strictly cliche and the action is never really convincing or suspenseful.

What does work, and what made people see the movie again and again, was Eddie Murphy. He looks about sixteen to me now. Murphy was in great shape, he was quick, funny, and extremely charismatic.

In fact, and this is something that could be said again and again about Eddie Murphy's movie career, he was better than the material.

Still, I liked it. I was a fan and like so many others I saw Beverly Hills Cop in a theater.

Eddie Murphy did an Indiana Jones-style action fantasy called The Golden Child next. It was financially successful, but a lot of people didn't like it. Critics savaged The Golden Child. I didn't much care for it either.

A bridge had been crossed and I mostly stopped seeing his movies. I loved Raw, which came after, and a friend dragged me to Coming To America. I thought it was all right. The nineties came on, and I mostly gave up on Eddie. Just as I did with Arnold and Sly. My head was elsewhere, and their movies seemed like cyncial product, or content as they say today.

I did like Life. I had hopes for Mr. Church, but it didn't quite work. Finally the old Eddie Murphy magic was back with Dolomite is my Name.

I hadn't seen Beverly Hills Cop in, oh my gracious, thirty-nine years. I decided I wanted to relive those days of yore, so I watched it at an obscenely early hour this morning.

You know what? I had a blast. I still maintain that it's a lousy movie, but it reminded me of old times. Good times.

Things weren't perfect. They weren't then, they certainly aren't now, and they never will be perfect, but I look back to those times with fondness. I have the same kind of good feeling about Purple Rain, another not-so-great movie with a lot of amazing music and personality.

It seemed like people were more on the same page back then. Not so many wedges between the races, the generations, the political demographics. We could laugh at ourselves and each other without it becoming a federal offense.

I passed on the Beverly Hills Sequels. I heard they are inferior rehashes, but I think I am going to seek them out. I have little doubt they will be bad movies, but that has never stopped me before.

Written by Mark Sieber

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