The career arc of Eddie Murphy traces the unmistakable line of tragedy: once perhaps the funniest man alive, a genius on the stand-up comedy stage and brilliant with characters, he lost himself in the allure of the easy money that comes from doing stupid, humor-free kid’s movies. His latest, Meet Dave, reunites him with Brian Robbins, perhaps the worst comedy director since whoever helmed that Daniel Pearl beheading video, and it may have been the last straw. Murphy tells Extra that he’s retiring from movies. Says the once and future Buckwheat: “I’ve done that part now. I’ll go back to the stage and do standup.”

So what does that mean for the announced Beverly Hills Cop IV? He’s off the project, he says, because “the movie wasn’t ready to be done.” This is a pretty big change from his Beverly Hills Cop III days, Murphy tells the TV show. “They said this is how much we’re going to pay you. I said, ‘let’s go shoot it! I don’t care if the script ain’t right.”

The idea of Murphy going back to the stage, getting re-energized by doing edgy, real comedy* and rediscovering why he does what he does, excites. If this could convince Murphy to rethink his selling out, to reconsider the kinds of movies he makes (since we all know he’ll be back onscreen once the sting of Meet Dave failing wears off), this could be a hallmark moment in comedy.

* Assuming a guy as rich and sheltered as Murphy can get edgy and real anymore. If he follows Richard Pryor’s lead and makes the new set personal – talk about picking up trannies, Eddie! – we may have something beautiful in store for us.