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The Golden Child is a modern fantasy film released in 1986, starring Eddie Murphy, Charles Dance, Charlotte Lewis, Victor Wong, and J.L. Reate as the titular Golden Child. It is a tongue-in-cheek take on the entire genre of Chosen One stories, complete with a Trickster Mentor, Card-Carrying Villain, and the lovable Karmic Trickster antics of Murphy.
Chandler Jarrell (Murphy) is a private detective specializing in missing children who is recruited by Kee Nang (Lewis) to locate and rescue the Golden Child, a boy with mystic powers who has been kidnapped by demonic forces. The Big Bad, a sorcerer named Sardo Numspa (Dance), wishes to kill the child to bring about the rule of evil on Earth, but must do so at a specific time with a specific ritual. Jarrell, a cynic and skeptic, is forced to come to terms with the supernatural elements of the world, as he is the Chosen One who is fated to protect the child. First, however, he must undergo his own training at the hands of "The Old Man", a Trickster Mentor played by Victor Wong, and recover the Ajanti dagger that is the only hope of killing Numspa... or the Golden Child.
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Kee Nang.
- The Apple Falls Far: In the chamber where the Ajanti dagger is kept, Jarrell finds himself walking over a deep dark pit, but he doesn't think it's really deep, so he drops a coin into the abyss, only to panic when he doesn't hear it hit the bottom.
- Arrested for Heroism: Invoked by Numspa, who attempts to have Jarrell arrested at the airport for smuggling the Ajanti dagger. Reality Ensues when Jarrell explains the rules of evidence to him.
- Badass: Kee Nang.
- Badass Longcoat: Numspa has one.
- Big Bad: Numspa, again.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Numspa, seriously...
- Catapult Nightmare
- Celibate Hero: Jarrell, involuntarily. He's assigned this task by the Old Man as a rite of purification, and one of the conditions is that he is not to tell Kee Nang about it.
- The Chosen One: Jarrell. He's not happy about it.
Jarrell: Why can't someone choose me to go to the Bahamas?
Kala: [hidden behind a screen] Do you have any other questions?
- Cosmic Keystone: The Golden Child serves this role in the universe, keeping the forces of evil at bay through his mere existence.
- Crosscast Role: J. L. Reate is a girl.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jarrell, Kee Nang & The Old Master.
- Evil Brit: Charles Dance in Large Ham fashion as Sardo Numspa.
- Evil Sorcerer: Numspa.
- Fan Service: Kee Nang doing somersaults in a skirt? Hot. Being shot with a crossbow? Not so much.
- Friend to All Living Things: The Golden Child, who is seen befriending birds and refuses to eat meat. Or blood.
- Giving Them the Strip: A beggar takes a $100 bill from Chandler Jarrell instead of a $1 bill. Chandler grabs him and tries to make him give the $100 bill back, but the old man disappears, leaving Chandler holding his clothes.
Jarrell: Has anybody seen a little naked old man running around with a hundred dollars?
- Grievous Bottley Harm
- Guile Hero: Jarrel uses his wits frequently to overcome the problems he encounters.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Kala, due to Hot Skitty-On-Wailord Action.
- Hero Harasses Helpers: After facing the Yellow Dragons, Chandler tells Kee Nang "Why'd you come in here? Didn't I tell you not to... I told you to stay in the car. Next time I tell you to do something, you do it!".
- Impossible Task: Traverse the maze with a full glass of water.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The Golden Child, by definition. Part of the Evil Plan is to coerce him into drinking blood, an impure act which would render him vulnerable to harm.
- I Shall Taunt You: Used constantly by Jarrell. Also used by the Old Man as part of Jarrell's training.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jarrell.
- Karma Houdini: Numpspa's demon master.
- Karmic Trickster: Jarrell.
- Large Ham: Numspa.
- Levitating Lotus Position: The title character's astrally projected image does this when it appears to Chandler Jarrell.
- Love Interest: Kee Nang, intentionally, to tempt Jarrell into his role. Later, she genuinely falls for him.
- The Messiah: The Golden Child, in a Buddhist sense.
- The Man Behind the Man: Numpspa is actually a servant of a demonic namless entity (maybe Satan himself).
- MacGuffin: The Ajanti dagger.
- Manipulative Bastard: Numspa.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot
- Mook Face Turn: The Golden Child does this to two of Numspa's minions: once when they try to kidnap him, and again to one of his guards. His simple physical touch is enough to convert them from evil.
- Neck Snap
- Oh Crap: When Jarrell bursts in on Numspa in the middle of his ritual, provoking the latter to go One-Winged Angel.
Jarrell: I see you're busy. I'll come back another time.
- Also when he realizes "there's no ground" after dropping a quarter and not hearing it land.
- One-Winged Angel: Numspa is really a giant winged demon.
- Only Mostly Dead: Happens to Kee Nang, setting a really strict time limit for the final battle.
- Only the Pure of Heart: The Golden Child is immune to harm by the forces of evil so long as he maintains his purity.
- Plummet Perspective: Lampshaded.
- Pocket Protector: Chandler Jarrell's medallion saves his life when the demon tries to stab him with the dagger.
- The President's Daughter: The Golden Child, except that he has the ability to affect the plot.
- Protective Charm
- Resigned to the Call: Jarrell absolutely refuses to believe that he's the Chosen One all the way through the story, but goes along anyway in order to save the child.
- Satan: Numspa's supposed master.
- Secret Test of Character: Used over and over until Jarrell finally gets the point.
- Shamgri La
- Snake People: The lady librarian behind the screen. One of her ancestors was raped by a dragon.
Old Man: Remember to stay on the path!
- Taking the Bullet: Kee Nang, as Jarrell is about to be shot by Numspa. With a crossbow... ouch.
- Talking in Your Dreams
- Tempting Fate: When Jarrell is taking the test to obtain the Dagger he says "This is a piece of cake!" Then It Got Worse.
- That Was Not a Dream: Chandler has a dream of taunting the Big Bad exactly like you'd expect Eddie Murphy to do, who burns a three-inch scar into the inside of his arm for his chutzpah. When he wakes up, the scar's still there. But the part where Kee Nang stripped and flirted with him, "That part was dream!"
- Trickster Mentor: The Old Man. His first appearance is as a street vendor who tricks Jarrell out of his money as a Secret Test of Character.
- The Voiceless: The Golden Child. Lampshaded by Jarrell near the end, after he finally says something.
- Wait Here: A Running Gag.
- Wet Sari Scene: Kee Nang gets one of these, too.
- When You Snatch the Pebble: Jarrell lampshades this.
Jarrell: "Only a man whose heart is pure can wield the knife, and only a man whose ass is narrow can get down these steps. And if mine is such an ass, then I shall have it."
- Wicked Cultured: Numspa.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: The Golden Child, of course — as a Buddha figure he's pretty much got a lock on this trope. For example, he doesn't eat the oatmeal since he knows they're trying to impurify him.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Jarrell is prepared for the whole "magical child fighting demons" thing to be a setup for a scam of some kind, and is not about to be fooled by all the trickery and mumbo jumbo. Turns out he's a wee bit wrong.
- Yellowface: Charlotte Lewis as Kee Nang.
- You Have Failed Me: Numspa kills a minion after he runs away from Jarrell and Kee Nang for his cowardice and possible betrayal.