Once upon a time, Eddie Murphy was the funniest man in the whole wide world. Then his ego outgrew his talent, and, after the multi-character triumph of Coming to America (which led to the multi-character Bataan Death March of Norbit), we never got him all the way back.

For anyone who grew up sneaking listens of Comedian and the self-titled LP known amongst my friends as “the one with ‘Boogie in the Butt'”, “all the way back” would entail a return to the profane glory of the honky tonk shakedown scene from 48 Hrs. or this (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s ‘cuz you’re a big Barry White lookin’ motherfucker). For whatever reason (see Box Office Mojo), Murphy has shied away from R-rated comedies since Boomerang, where he played point guard to the jump-shooting likes of Martin Lawrence and the hopefully immortal John Witherspoon – and, yes, I’m aware Vampire in Brooklyn was rated R (if only the rest of the film were this good). Aside from the fact that he now gets $20 million per for keeping it cleaner, I have a feeling that Eddie’s eschewed f-bombs because he associates that kind of material with his downfall. But “they didn’t come to see me in Metro, so fuck ’em” is a poor excuse to give up on the rough stuff. And, as Rocky Balboa and last week’s Indy 4 proved, there’s a windfall in them thar franchise resurrections.

So here comes Beverly Hills Cop IV.

I’ve waited until paragraph three to acknowledge that the tentatively greenlit Beverly Hills Cop IV has been entrusted to Brett Ratner. Though I’m amused by The Trade Paper That Shall Remain Nameless’ suggestion that he was selected after numerous directors turned the project down, I’d prefer someone with a surer sense of pacing to revive the Axel Foley series. That said, they haven’t even hired a writer yet, so let’s lay off Ratner for the time being. Hopefully, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura is looking at Martin Brest’s original and realizing that a) a nonsensical, Rush Hour-esque narrative won’t cut it, and b) it ain’t a Beverly Hills Cop movie without Taggart.

I’m more excited about this project than I should be, but, honestly, it’s probably the only way Eddie will ever be convinced that people still love the old shit.

Currently, Paramount is targeting a 2009 start date and a 2010 summer release. Bob Seger could not be reached for comment.