In a recent interview in the New York Times, Eddie Murphy said:

I don’t gravitate toward things that I think would be challenging. I want to do something I know works and something that I know I can be funny doing.

Well, that explains “Axel F,” the new entry in the “Beverly Hills Cop” universe, which began with a bang in 1984, but should have been left for dead after the terrible third installment in 1994.

The new one seems like the same kind of nostalgic cash grab as Murphy’s “Coming To America” sequel three years ago. And his “Doctor Doolittle” sequel. And his “Shrek” sequels. And his “Nutty Professor” sequel. In fact, I just looked through Murphy’s filmography on IMDb and realized he hasn’t made an good original movie in the last fifteen years except “Dolomite Is My Name,” which I reviewed very favorably (and is still available on Netflix).

“Axel F” is nothing but a worn out retread of a genre, the action comedy cop movie, which may have been started by Murphy’s work in “48 Hours” and the first “Beverly Hills Cop.” The blueprint includes a generous mix of funny and kinda-believable stunt scenes. But it has been imitated so often since — in everything from “Lethal Weapon” to the “Ride Along” movies — that it’s become clichéd and no longer entertaining.

The plot is paper thin, built purely to give Murphy an opportunity to walk through the unchallenging title role while meeting up with old pals, including:

  • Judge Reinhold as ex-cop-turned-private-investigator Billy Rosewood;
  • John Ashton (looking terrible at 76 years old) as Billy’s former partner, John Taggart, who’s now police chief in Beverly Hills — despite the character supposedly retiring and moving to Arizona with his wife between BHC2 and BHC3;
  • Paul Reiser as Detroit cop Jeffrey Friedman, who has similarly risen through the ranks but is about to retire, but not until being frustrated yet again by Foley’s shenanigans;
  • Bronson Pinchot, reprising his character, Serge, who still can’t pronounce most words correctly, including “Axel Foley.” His appearance in the first BHC was one of its highlights, but now he shows up for no reason whatsoever.

The new faces in “Axel F” include Taylour Paige as Jane, a public defender who is Axel’s estranged daughter (gee, I wonder if they’ll patch things up by the end of the movie?). Also in the supporting cast are Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a detective Jane used to date and Kevin Bacon as a corrupt cop on the narcotics task force. I was sorry to see respected veteran character actor Luis Guzman wasted as a drug kingpin with mascara and glitter on his face while his gut hangs out over the table. Whoever forced him to play the role that way must have been inspired by Paul Benedict’s idiot theater director in “The Goodbye Girl,” who forced Richard Dreyfuss into a similarly ridiculous performance.

I’m not even going to bother telling you the story because a movie like this relies entirely on recreating scenes almost identical to those in the original. That means chases with massive collateral damage to vehicles which have the misfortune of being parked in the way of — in an early scene — the snowplow Foley uses to go after bad guys on motorcycles (you know, one of those high-speed snowplows you’ve never heard of). By the way, I’m not even sure the villains committed a crime before Foley starts going after them.

Details like that don’t matter in the BHC universe. Just repeat, repeat, repeat what’s been done before — including soundtrack songs like the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” Bob Seger’s “Shakedown,” and the nearly constant use of Harold Faltermeyer’s title song.

But forty years later, will any of that bring a younger audience to movie theaters? “Axel F” doesn’t have to, because it’s on Netflix.

I give it a 3 out of 10.