Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
Studio Line: Paramount Home Entertainment - It's on!

Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) journeys back to Beverly Hills for a real roller coaster thrill ride at the Wonderworld amusement park! Joined by old pals Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Serge (Bronson Pinchot), Axel becomes the hottest new attraction as he chases down the bad guys on the rides, through the shows and in the underground maze beneath the park. Beverly Hills Cop III is "a wild, funny action comedy" that will have you hooked for the whole ride!

Director: John Landis
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizondo, Theresa Randle, Timothy Carhart, Alan Young, Bronson Pinchot
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English Dolby Digital 5.1 & Dolby Surround 2.0, French Dolby Surround 2.0; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 14 chapters; rated R; 104 min.; $24.99; street date 1/29/02.
Supplements: "Triple Axel" Featurette; Theatrical Trailer.
Purchase: DVD | Beverly Hills Cop DVD Giftset | Music soundtrack - Various Artists

Picture/Sound/Extras: B-/C+/C-

When Eddie Murphy made Beverly Hills Cop in 1984, it clearly established him as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He’d done well with prior efforts; 1982’s 48 Hours and 1983’s Trading Places were definite hits. However, Cop was Murphy’s first full lead role. He costarred with Nick Nolte and Dan Aykroyd, respectively, in the earlier flicks, but Cop truly put Murphy at the forefront. Obviously he responded well to this pressure, as Cop was a huge hit that ended up as the second highest-grossing flick of the year with a take of $234 million.

When Eddie Murphy made Beverly Hills Cop II in 1987, he remained one of the top actors in Hollywood. Over the 30 months between the first Cop and the sequel, Murphy hadn’t done anything to raise his commercial profile; he made only one movie - 1986’s The Golden Child - and it received a decent but somewhat lukewarm reception from moviegoers. His attempt to become a singing-star via 1985’s How Can It Be? didn’t exactly rocket up the charts either.

However, neither of those projects seemed to damage Murphy’s reputation, and Cop II enjoyed a very positive commercial reception. The critics were less enthusiastic, but crowds still appeared interested, as Cop II grabbed $153 million and landed the spot as the third highest-grossing flick of the year.

When Eddie Murphy made Beverly Hills Cop III in 1994, he bordered on “has-been” status. Murphy hadn’t enjoyed a hit film since 1988’s Coming to America, as all of his efforts failed to reach any form of substantial audience. Even his last attempt to capitalize on an earlier hit - 1990’s Another 48 Hours - tanked.

As we know, Murphy eventually would rekindle his career and become a major film star again. However, this didn’t occur due to Cop III. If anything, the third iteration in the series seemed like one of the deepest nails in his professional coffin. A big-budget spectacular that Paramount slotted for the key Memorial Day weekend release, the film totally bombed; it earned an anemic $42 million, or barely 1/6th of the first movie’s take.

Two years later, Murphy would return to form with 1996’s Nutty Professor. Murphy’s maintained a spotty record since then, as flicks like Life and Metro certainly did little to impress audiences or critics. However, over the last five years, Murphy’s had more hits than flops; with Bowfinger, Nutty and its sequel, 1998’s Dr. Dolittle and its sequel as well as animated successes Mulan in 1998 and Shrek in 2001, Murphy has remained one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Considering the man’s ample talents, his fall from grace remains somewhat mysterious; it’s almost unbelievable to think that he made so many terrible flicks over the years.

But he did, and if you want to find a prime example, look no farther than the final (to date) tale in the life of Axel Foley. I loved Cop and thought that although Cop II was a pale retread of the original, it still had enough fun and chemistry to offer a reasonably entertaining experience.

No signs of that earlier spark appear during Cop III. Instead, we find a weak and generic action flick that offers virtually no substance, wit, or flair.

At the start of Cop III, we see Foley (Murphy) hard at work in his home confines of Detroit. He takes the lead in an investigation of a local car “chop shop”, but when some unknown baddies - led by Ellis DeWald (Timothy Carhart)- let loose with gunfire, the situation goes downhill. As part of the disastrous operation, Axel’s long-time boss, Inspector Todd (Gil Hill), gets killed.

Sound familiar? Both Cop and Cop II began with shootings that sent Foley on a mission of revenge; the use of this same tired plot device in Cop III couldn’t be a positive omen. Anyway, Axel quickly discovers a connection between the killers and famed Southern California amusement park Wonder World, so he quickly scurries out to LA for more investigative fun.

Once there, he hooks up with his old partners. Actually, let’s make that old partner. We’ve seen definite attrition across the three films. Most of the supporting cast from Cop returned for Cop II; of Axel’s friends, only Jenny (Lisa Eilbacher) failed to make the cut. (I’ve always wondered why.)

However, Cop III further reduces the cast. Of Axel’s three California police partners, only one appears here. Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) has been promoted to a position as the head of a cross-jurisdictional program that coordinates LA-area police activities across city and county lines. Taggart (John Ashton) has retired to Arizona, and as for Bogomil - who got promoted to chief at the end of the last film - well, we’re never told what in the world happened to him; he just vanished!

That element offered one of the movie’s many nonsensical inconsistencies. For one, since the guys had apparently become so buddy-buddy over the years, it made no sense that Axel didn’t know Taggart had retired. Sure, people get busy and lose contact, but these dudes went on vacations together and risked their lives for each other; you don’t think Axel would get invited to the retirement party?

At least they explained why Taggart wasn’t in the film; too bad Bogomil didn’t get equal consideration. Apparently to compensate for the absence of so many prime supporting actors, Cop III does bring back one of the first film’s most popular characters, Serge (Bronson Pinchot), the flamboyant and ambiguous art maven with a fondness for espresso. While Serge offered some of the original’s best bits, his return should not be seen as a positive. Instead, it’s a desperation move that tries to make us forget the movie’s many flaws.

It’s also nonsensical, as is much of the flick. Why does Serge appear in Cop III? As it happens, when Axel turns his investigation toward Wonder World, he meets DeWald, who heads the park’s security force. Of course, Foley immediately recognizes him, and he flies off the handle at their first meeting. However, he then needs to do more research to find evidence to indict DeWald.

As also occurred in the first two films, this area partially involves intimidation. Axel loves to show up at social events and stalk the baddies. In this case, DeWald gets an award for his work at the park and also as a supporter of various causes. This takes place at a private security expo, and coincidence of coincidences, it just so happens that Serge has changed careers! He now runs a boutique that markets designer artillery for the security-minded rich.

Ugh! Not only does this segment baldly steal from Chevy Chase’s 1983 flop Deal of the Century, but also it simply makes little sense. It seems far too opportunistic and silly.

Not that such characteristics make the scene stand out in Cop III, where the stupid becomes routine. At the start of the film, some of the mechanics at the chop shop perform a dance routine to the strains of the Supremes’ “Come See About Me”. Of course, the fact that the two performers are fat and grizzled makes this absolutely hilarious, right?

Wrong. It’s just as inane and unfunny as it sounds. The segment comes across as pointless and nonsensical. Is it supposed to offer a fantasy piece, or are we to believe that these guys actually do this kind of thing? Cop III doesn’t know, and the movie falls flat because of it.

Anyway, the plot follows a pretty standard structure. Foley pursues DeWald with help from Rosewood and Taggart stand-in Jon Flint (Hector Elizondo). This leads to an inevitable chase through the amusement park, but even those elements - which certainly had a lot of potential - fell flat.

Frankly, Cop III has almost nothing to do with the prior films other than the names of the characters. However, Axel and Rosewood felt different here; they didn’t seem like the same people. Reinhold just looks embarrassed through the whole thing, and who can blame him? Murphy displays little of the charisma and spark that made him famous, and Axel’s turned into a virtual superhero at times. In one scene, he rescues some kids from a collapsing ride. Huh? Where’d that come from? It seems to exist solely to make Murphy look strong; it has nothing to do with anything else.

Cop III was a project borne solely out of desperation. It intended to salvage two failing careers: in addition to Murphy, it meant to bring director John Landis back to form. Unlike Murphy, Landis has yet to return to prosperity, perhaps because the director was never all that talented in the first place. He created some reasonably good movies over the years, but Landis lacks the flair that might have made his work more memorable.

He was absolutely the wrong choice for Cop III. His background remains in comedy, but he went the wrong direction for those scenes; the movie’s broad inanity feels weird in the Cop universe. Landis showed absolutely no talent for the action sequences, as those seemed flat and generic.

How in the world did Beverly Hills Cop III actually make it into the marketplace? Obviously all involved thought there was still money to be made off the franchise, but I guess they were wrong. Actually, there may well be additional profits to stem from the Cop domain, but Cop III was the wrong project. A witless, dull, and absurd movie, it offers virtually nothing interesting or enjoyable.

The DVD:

Beverly Hills Cop III appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not a bad presentation, the picture showed a mix of concerns that made it a generally lackluster piece as a whole.

Most of the image’s problems occurred during the film’s first half. Quality improved as it progressed, but it never seemed quite as terrific as it should given the vintage and budget of the material. Sharpness usually appeared concise and distinct. Some wide shots demonstrated a little softness at times, but that occurred infrequently. As a whole, the picture came across as well defined and accurate. Moiré effects, edge enhancement, and jagged edges didn’t seem to present any concerns.

Though still relatively modest, print flaws created a more substantial issue. On occasion, I saw examples of grit, speckles, grain, and a couple of instances in which blotches and scratches appeared. None of these seemed intense, but given the reasonably recent vintage of the flick, they appeared a bit excessive.

Colors varied. Not surprisingly, they were strongest during daytime amusement park scenes, which offered some nicely vivid and vibrant tones. In other segments, however, the hues could look somewhat flat and lackluster. Black levels also suffered from moderate muddiness, and shadow detail presented acceptable but unspectacular definition. Frankly, there really wasn’t much about the picture that seemed overtly bad; however, the whole presentation often appeared bland and vaguely lifeless.

Of the three films, only Beverly Hills Cop III hit screens after theatrical digital audio became the norm. As such, one might expect it to offer the strongest auditory experience, but that wasn’t the case; even without the compensations made for age, I thought Cop II presented superior audio. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Cop III provided a fairly drab affair.

For the most part, the soundfield maintained a definite bias toward the forward channels. In that spectrum, music showed reasonable stereo separation, and effects demonstrated good but unexceptional spread over the channels and movement across them. The front domain gave us a fairly positive impression, but it didn’t do anything terribly well. The surrounds usually featured little more than general reinforcement of the music and effects. During some of the louder scenes - such as a fight on the “Alien Attack” ride or the dinosaur attraction - the rears kicked in some very solid elements, but those instances were exceptions to the rule.

Audio quality was usually acceptable, but it also seemed problematic for a modern film. Dialogue generally sounded reasonably natural and distinct, and I detected no problems related to intelligibility. I heard some slight edginess at times, however. Additional distortion came along with effects; gunfire demonstrated some concerns in that regard. The effects also seemed moderately harsh at times. The track boasted decent bass on occasion, but it still came across as a little rough and strident. Music sounded fairly clear and bright, and low-end response was average. For the most part, the soundtrack of Cop III wasn’t truly bad, but it seemed somewhat weak for such a recent effort.

Since Cop III was the least successful flick in the series, it comes as no surprise that this DVD includes the fewest supplements. Other than the film’s theatrical trailer, all we find is a new documentary about the flick. Entitled Triple Axel, the 24-minute and 50-second program combines the usual mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews with principals. We hear from director John Landis, producer Robert Rehme, screenwriter Steven E. De Souza, and actors Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Theresa Randle, Timothy Carhart, and Joey Travolta. All the clips seem to be new except for those from Murphy and Landis; their material appears to come from 1994.

If you’ve seen the programs that accompany the first two Cop flicks, you’ll know what to expect here. As a whole, this is a fairly light and fluffy examination of the film’s creation. We learn some decent details about its genesis, and it includes a bit of good behind the scenes footage. It also features Murphy to a greater degree than the other two; the star made only a brief appearance in the new features on Cop, and he was nowhere to be found during the Cop II documentary. His pieces may be a few years old, but they beat nothing.

Still, this is a pretty bland program. “Axel” sticks with the superficial for the most part, as we mainly hear about how terrific everyone was. Anyone who expects a discussion of the movie’s failure will be disappointed; there’s no acknowledgement whatsoever that Cop III flopped. Overall, it’s a watchable piece, but it doesn’t add much to the experience.

Actually, about the only thing that might make Beverly Hills Cop III more appealing would be the inclusion of a home lobotomy kit. The third iteration in the series offered a completely inane and borderline unwatchable experience that did little more than sully the good name of the prior two flicks. It may not be the worst movie Eddie Murphy’s made, but it’s kissing cousins to that film. The DVD provides decent but pretty mediocre picture and sound as well as only a small roster of extras. Avoid this one at all costs.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4838 Stars Number of Votes: 31
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