The first Beverly Hills Cop movie was a hit comedy that, for all its faults, was a crowd-pleaser and just a good old time. Beverly Hills Cop II was…ummm…well, at least it had Paul Reiser and Dean Stockwell and a cameo by Hugh Hefner. Beverly Hills Cop III lacks even the limited charms of the second installment.
Facts of the Case
In the years since we last saw Axel Foley (Murphy), he has gained a measure of respectability in the Detroit Police Department. He now leads his own undercover team. Axel and his team set out one night to raid an illegal "chop shop" where stolen vehicles are dismantled and disguised for resale. Axel's old mentor/nemesis Inspector Todd (Gilbert R. Hill—Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop II) comes along as well, just to keep an eye on Axel. (In a weak attempt to set up a deep motivation for Axel for the rest of the movie, he disagrees with Axel's decision not to involve a SWAT team for this raid.)
The raid, of course, goes poorly, and Todd is killed, as are most of the car thieves. Axel pursues a stolen truck, but loses it. Evidence links the truck to Wonderworld, a theme park in California. Wonderworld is the center of an entertainment empire that reminds me of something in the real world, although I can't put my finger on it. Anyway, this provides Axel with an excuse to go back out to Beverly Hills, team up again with Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold—Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Beethoven's 4th), and blow things up real good at Wonderworld. Oh yeah, there's something about stopping a counterfeiting ring in the process, but this isn't a movie that pays a lot of attention to things like plot.
What can one say about a comedy where there is only one real laugh? There is a scene where Axel has gone undercover at Wonderworld. He is dressed as "Oki-Doki," the most famous cartoon character created by the legendary "Uncle Dave." (This still reminds me of something from the real world, but I just can't quite place it…) A bratty kid comes up and, after a short exchange, punches Oki-Doki, managing to hit Axel "where it counts." (That's not the funny part. I'm getting there.) Axel mutters a string of cuss words under his breath (that's very much not the funny part) and pushes the kid into a fountain. (Not there yet.) The kid's grandmother then gives the sourest, most disapproving reaction shot in the history of film, and at that point I laughed hysterically. It wasn't really that funny, but I'd been waiting quite a while for something to laugh at, so I took full advantage. You see, with the exception of that one-second shot, there is not much to like in Beverly Hills Cop III.
One of the central problems of Beverly Hills Cop III is the bizarre structure of the plot, such as it is. In the interview featurette that is provided on this DVD, producer Robert Rehme speaks openly about the origins of this story. Basically, someone involved with the movie saw a news item about amusement parks, and decided that this would make a good location for the new Beverly Hills Cop flick. The rest of the "writing" process involved concocting some kind of story that would give Axel motivation to go back out to California and into the park so that wacky mayhem could ensue. This is not to say that the story is simple; far from it. This movie makes more detours than…someone who takes a lot of detours. We wait patiently while Rosewood fills us in on the background details of his new position (concocted so as to give him reason to leave his own jurisdiction and go to the amusement park) and the ostensible reasons why Detective Taggart (John Ashton) wisely decided not to appear in this adventure. We watch as Axel confronts the evil Wonderworld security guards and saves two kids from a malfunctioning ride in a scene that puts the upcoming Spiderman to shame. We see him visit Serge (Bronson Pinchot—Perfect Strangers, Beverly Hills Cop) again, mostly as an excuse to get Pinchot's antics into this movie. (For those who don't remember Serge, he used to make espresso with a lemon twist. I only bring this up because the script does, thinking that we won't remember him.) Serge no longer works at the art gallery; instead, he sells high-tech weapons systems to rich denizens of Beverly Hills for their personal defense. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Instead of a plot, and instead of any humor, we get a weak string of action setpieces, each one more poorly conceived and ineptly executed than the one before. A shootout in an amusement park could be an incredibly tense, almost surreal experience in the hands of the right director. John Landis (Coming to America, Trading Places, The Blues Brothers) must not be that director, because I've played games of Whack-A-Mole that generated a stronger emotional response than anything in this flick.
The acting in this movie is horrible as well. Murphy mugs for the camera and basically plays himself. Timothy Carhart fails to make any impression whatsoever as villainous mastermind Ellis DeWald; it's a good thing other characters address him by name a lot, otherwise I would not have recognized him from scene to scene. Reinhold as Rosewood basically seems lost. Hector Elizondo (Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries, Chicago Hope) shows up as Rosewood's new partner and spends the entire movie looking like he ate tainted eggs for breakfast. Theresa Randle (Malcolm X, Girl 6, Spawn) shows up as Janice, a Wonderworld employee trying to help Axel. I wouldn't say she was bad, but I wrote in my notes that she reminded me of plywood, but without the layers.
The DVD from Paramount is a decent job, probably better than Beverly Hills Cop III deserves. This is an anamorphic transfer, preserving the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Picture quality is mostly good, with solid colors and sharp images. Shadows and blacks are deep and solid. Still, the image occasionally shows some softness, and I did detect some pretty bad pixelation in the skies during an outdoor scene.
Audio is provided in Dolby Digital 5.1. The only real complaint here is a lack of good solid bass punch, especially for sounds like gunshots and car crashes. Other than that the track is sharp and clear, and shows remarkably good channel separation and directionality. There are a few scenes where the echo effects seem to be a bit overdone, but I'm not sure if this is the fault of the people who made the movie or the DVD.
Extra content is limited, but sufficient. The main extra feature is a 25-minute "Cast and Crew Interviews" featurette. This is basically talking heads yammering about how much they enjoyed making the movie, but there are some interesting tidbits here for die hard fans of the series. An impressive range of people is included, from Murphy and Reinhold to producer Bob Rehme and director Landis. The other extra feature is the theatrical trailer for Beverly Hills Cop III, which is a lot more fun and takes a lot less time to watch than the actual feature presentation.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Having totally ripped on this movie, I feel like I should come up with one nice thing to say, one bone to throw the admittedly hard-working people who made it.
I'll let you know if I think of anything.
First Blood. The Karate Kid. Beverly Hills Cop. We would all have been better off if the third installment of each of these franchises had never been made. I can't imagine anyone wanting to see Beverly Hills Cop III, and I certainly can't imagine anyone buying the DVD. Do yourself a favor and give this one a pass.
Guilty! A terrible sequel that proved the death knell for an otherwise mostly enjoyable series of movies. Paramount is acquitted; the video and audio was pretty good, and for once their stinginess with extra content is a relief.
We stand adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
• Theatrical Trailer
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