The second sequel to the phenomenally successful BEVERLY HILLS COP, BEVERLY HILLS COP III aims for all-out mainstream comedy and fizzles. What made the first film such a breath of fresh air was its breezy mix of gritty cop conventions and sassy comedy, mostly in the form of star Eddie
Murphy's Axel Foley, a Detroit cop who can't believe the way business is done in tony Beverly Hills.
The film opens in a Detroit chop shop, where Foley and his colleagues are set to make a bust. But something goes very wrong: while the cops lurk outside, sleekly ruthless Ellis DeWald (Timothy Carhart) and his well-tailored lackeys are wreaking havoc within, and when the bullets start flying,
Foley's irascible boss falls victim. A towel embroidered with the logo of WonderWorld--a squeaky clean nightmare of a Southern California theme park--leads Foley back to LA, where he looks up his old pal Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), who's been promoted to a job co-ordinating various greater
Los Angeles area police departments. Foley finds his killer--who turns out to be the widely respected head of WonderWorld security--almost immediately, and spends the rest of the film trying to prove that he's a monster who's running a counterfeiting operation inside the tunnels beneath the
The local police tell him to lay off, but Foley persists, enlisting the aid of a pretty WonderWorld security officer (Teresa Randel), a cantankerous cop (Hector Elizondo), the mannered Serge (Bronson Pinchot)--now the proprietor of a designer gun shop; he provides Foley with some novel
firepower--and even saintly Uncle Dave (Alan Young), WonderWorld's founder. The film moves inexorably to a spectacular showdown in the deserted park, and comes to its climax as Foley runs through a series of animatronic tableaux and shoots up everything that moves and many things that don't. With
DeWald and his goons dead, WonderWorld is again safe for children of all ages.
It's obvious that BEVERLY HILLS COP III isn't a plot-driven movie: the story is just an excuse to put Murphy, Reinhold and a thoroughly professional cast through their paces. Murphy mugs and cracks wise, Reinhold bumbles through one misadventure after another with a deer-in-the-headlights look
of wide-eyed astonishment, and Bronson Pinchot, who stole the first film with his wildly stylized bit as Serge, returns, sleek and fey as ever. Director John Landis, smasher of cars and once, a long time ago, proficient revitalizer of tired genre conventions (think of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN
LONDON), doesn't even try to duplicate the mix of hard-edged action and dark humor that propelled BEVERLY HILLS COP. Though we mostly remember Axel's cheekiness, the original was a solid fish-out-of-water police thriller with a tough-minded subtext; Axel's investigation was the real thing, and the
laughs never entirely obscured the fact that he was unwelcome in Beverly Hills because he was a smart, ambitious black man who didn't take any nonsense from anyone, even on the streets of one of the whitest, wealthiest communities in America. BEVERLY HILLS COP III is a flat-out action comedy in
which the action is unimpressive and the comedy so mild it seldom hits the mark; for a series only into its third installment, BEVERLY HILLS COP III is shockingly toothless.
Murphy's trademark delivery is still impudently subversive, but it's too often wasted on unworthy opponents. The film's raison d'etre is the desecration of WonderWorld, where bulbous cartoon animals and scrubbed, smiling teens inhabit a pristine landscape that cries out to be dirtied up a bit.
It doesn't take Murphy to get a laugh when, undercover inside a plump, powder blue elephant costume, he shoves a nasty brat into a fountain--we've all secretly thrilled to stories of drunken Mickies and bad-tempered Goofies tainting Disneyland's oppressively saccharine perfection. But though
BEVERLY HILLS COP III appeals to our most adolescently anarchic urges, it doesn't deliver the goods. Unlike Beverly Hills, WonderWorld really is a marvelous place--not an exclusive, fascist fantasy land--and adorable Uncle Dave is as pure and decent a father figure as anyone could want, so Axel
can't be a true transgressor. That wouldn't be nice. In fact, WonderWorld does what Beverly Hills never did; it draws Axel's claws and transforms him into its newest resident, a clever fox character whose launch Axel watches with pure delight.
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