Stars: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizondo, Theresa Randle, Bronson Pinchot, John Saxon, Timothy Carhart. Written by Steven E. de Souza. Directed by John Landis. Rated R for violence, profanity.

The first two "Beverly Hills Cop" movies were created by filmmakers who had a talent for action as well as comedy. Martin Brest, director of "Midnight Run", helmed the first one while Tony Scott, of "Top Gun" and "The Last Boy Scout", took the reins for the sequel. Control over "Beverly Hills Cop 3", however, passed into the hands of John Landis, a director of mainstream comedies. The mastermind (?) behind "Coming to America", "Kentucky Fried Movie" and "Three Amigos" is sadly inept at infusing his films with excitement in addition to laughs. So if Eddie Murphy appears to be in top form and if he's been placed in a storyline that isn't half bad, and yet the film doesn't quite gel as a whole, you'll know the reason why.

The contrivance that gets this film rolling is that Axel Foley (Murphy), a detroit street cop, discovers that the man responsible for the death of his police chief is head of security at a large California theme park. The fictional WonderWorld is full of roller coasters, cotton candy and carnival games, but beneath it's surface lies treachery. Ellis DeWald (Timothy Carhart) and Orrin Sanderson (John Saxon) have subverted the underground control center of WonderWorld into a high tech counterfeiting operation.

On Axel's side is his familiar cohort Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) as well as Billy's friend and fellow cop Jon Flint (Hector Elizondo). Also lending a hand is a bit player from the first go-round, Bronson Pinchot, who reprises his role as quirky jet-setter Serge. Serge just happens to be selling a powerful but completely ludicrous home protection weapon that looks like a deadly military weapon but also includes such amenities as a phone and a microwave. Naturally, one of these monstrosities finds its way into the action before the flick gives out.

Sure its got the occasional laugh, but "Beverly Hills Cop 3" just can't cut the mustard in its attempt to generate excitement. One sequence in particular, which finds our feckless hero attempting to rescue two children from a amusement park ride that's malfunctioning, is a case in point. This segment is weakly choreographed, shoddily filmed and filled with the lamest of special effects. One wonders how many favors Landis has to pull in to get such big name filmmakers as George Lucas, Joe Dante, and John Singleton to appear in cameos.

I think my first indication that the film was in trouble was the dearth of catchy soundtrack music. The other two films spawned successful albums and the music was part of the reason that the movies became such big hits. Part 3 is oddly quiet except for the occasional reprise of the venerable "Axel F" instrumental theme which all too often is performed by a stodgy orchestra.

Die hard Murphy fans may find reason to rejoice in the smooth one's familiar antics. I, for one, hope that this franchise has ended.

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