Chandler Jarrell (Murphy), a private dick-cum-social worker, must track down a little Buddhist boy, known as the precious lad of the film's title. Apparently, an evil sorcerer (Dance) is also on his tail, so it's up to Jarrell to piece together clues before all hell breaks loose.
The Golden Child suffers from being an uneasy alloy of incompatible elements.
Eddie Murphy stars, but has installed some kind of limiter into his motor mouth, leaving some scenes where he might usually zing indignantly feeling a little empty. There is Charles Dance, a perfectly respectable villain (i.e. British with a sturdy jaw and piercing eyes) who would surely have done better with darker, less family-orientated material. Then there is the plot, which is weirder that Big Trouble in Little China, but with none of the knowingly-bad laughs.
Put specifics to one side and the film fairs no better. It tries to pitch up somewhere between a Raymond Chandler homage (Jarrells first name is one of many hints), an Indiana Jones-style serial romp, and a pantomime of a family event. If there is a successful balance between such differing styles, then this film doesnt find it.
Toying with themes too serious for it and stars too big for it, this fantasy is incalculably less than the sum of it's parts.