A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Beverly Hills Cop is a 1984 movie in which a young Eddie Murphy plays a cocky Detroit cop who goes to Beverly Hills to find out who killed his best friend. Much of what makes the film funny is his use of obscene or at least inappropriate language in a multitude of situations, including frequent use of "f--k" and one use of the "N" word. While he is a cop, his character, Axel Foley, uses the "ends justify the means" approach to police work, and almost every scene involves him lying to various people to pursue his goal. Violence is not pervasive, but when it appears, it's rendered realistically -- fistfights leave marks and gunshots produce blood and/or death. A man is shot and killed in the back of the head at close range. There's a strip club scene featuring female nudity. Axel and his best friend get drunk at a bar then stumble back to Axel's while slurring their speech.
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What's the story?
Detroit police officer Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) experiences a severe case of culture shock when clues in the murder of his good friend lead him to Beverly Hills. Put under the watchful eyes of two Beverly Hills cops (Judge Reinhold and John Ashton), the maverick outsider infuriates his superiors and rattles the ritzy city with his wildly unorthodox detective skills. But Axel's entertaining antics expose the truth about Victor Maitland, a British art dealer who turns out to be the crime king who killed Foley's friend. It all comes down to an on-the-edge-of-your-seat shootout at Maitland's Beverly Hills mansion.
Is it any good?
Years after its original release, BEVERLY HILLS COP has not aged quite as well as one might have hoped. In its day, Eddie Murphy's rapid-fire, uncensored wisecracking was almost revelatory for a big-screen comedy, but since then, it has lost some luster. That's not to say that Murphy's Axel Foley isn't charming. It's still easy to side with Foley's mission to bring his friend's killer to justice. Yet this alone doesn't quite buoy the film as it did when it was completely fresh.
The soundtrack is definitive cheesy 1980s pop, however, the film stands above many subsequent action comedies. The look of it is impeccable, creating a time capsule of Beverly Hills's excess. Also, the action is relatively pared down to short but meaningful bursts, making it less cartoonish than a Tango & Cash (1989) or a Bad Boys (1995). That's why even with the age spots, BEVERLY HILLS COP still stands out as a stellar example of its genre. However, it is absolutely not appropriate for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Axel. Are his illegal methods justified by the criminal behaviors of his suspects? What about the situations where his lying and scheming has no material effect on his investigation (as when he lies to an hotel clerk to get a room)?
At the time, the character of Axel Foley wasn't too far off from Eddie Murphy's persona and comedic style in both stand-up and on SNL. There are many movies that are vehicles for lead actors in which the character and the actor's public persona aren't too far off -- Clint Eastwood and Bill Murray, for example. What are some other examples of movies in which the lead actor's public persona meshes nicely with the role they play?
There is frequent violence in the movie -- people shot and killed at close and far range, people punched and kicked, bruised and bloodied, car chases with frequent crashes and accidents in their immediate wake. Was this violence necessary for the movie? Why or why not?
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