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‘Cop and a Half’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 02, 1993


Henry Winkler
Burt Reynolds;
Ray Sharkey;
Ruby Dee;
Holland Taylor;
Frank Silvera;
Norman D. Golden II
Parental guidance suggested

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What can you say about "Cop and a Half," a movie in which Burt Reynolds teams up with an 8-year-old to catch a drug dealer? What's the intended audience? People who like "Lethal Weapon" and Barney? Obviously, this is for kids itching to bust criminals and other low-life scum. It's "Miami Vice" for the Nintendo set.

According to an ebullient press release from Universal Pictures, newcomer Norman D. Golden II beat out thousands of youngsters for the junior role. The filmmakers (including director Henry Winkler) were "dazzled" by the "irrepressible" little lad. In the movie, he's supposed to be a precocious little whippersnapper obsessed with becoming a real cop. But Golden's insufferable, smart-alecky quips suggest something closer to grotesque.

Spending his time devising imaginary cop games, latchkey kid (and TV junkie) Golden yearns for the real thing. He gets that opportunity when he witnesses veteran cop Reynolds in action. Or inaction. See, Reynolds doesn't like to run. That's because of strain on the old legs -- not toupee wind resistance. Pursuing a clutch of criminals by car and through fences, Reynolds nabs one bad guy but loses the others. But vigilant Golden writes down the getaway car's license plate number. He cuts an immediate deal with Reynolds. He'll give out that number for a week's worth of cop-cruising.

After much grumbling and user-friendly cussing, Burt -- who doesn't like kids -- agrees to take Golden as his temporary partner. The rest of the movie is big-guy/little-guy stuff. Golden upstages the Burtmeister with artificially manufactured one-liners. Reynolds takes it like a ham.

Actually, no adult is safe from this kid. When Golden's school principal gets stopped for speeding, the on-duty third grader gets to write the ticket. "I'm your worst nightmare," he tells his teacher. "An 8-year-old with a badge."

Out of the mouths of babes . . .

Naturally, Reynolds will grow to love his sidekick and troll. There are lessons, of course, for both. Golden has to learn to be a kid again. Burt needs to get over the formulaic demons in his past (lost a partner in a drug raid, blames himself). When Golden gets captured by those gangsters (led by Ray Sharkey) in Tampa, it's time for the old man to launch a big-finale rescue. You will see Reynolds on a motorcycle. You will see Reynolds and Golden in a speedboat. And in a matter of weeks, you will see "Cop and a Half" in its alphabetical place on the video-rental shelves.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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