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Apparently finished with voicing a donkey, which he did for four full-length Shrek features, Eddie Murphy’s moving on to brick-smashing, roundhouse-delivering, janitor dogs.

The comedian will voice Hong Kong Phooey for Alcon Entertainment’s upcoming production, a live-action/animation hybrid (much like The Smurfs or Garfield) that will take its cues from the Saturday morning cartoon of our childhoods. Variety reports Murphy will lend his voice to Penry, a mild-mannered dog who “stumbles into a secret ceremony and is accidentally granted mystical powers, including the ability to walk, talk and do kung fu.”

I can’t recall the original Hanna-Barbera cartoon, which only ran for 16 episodes in 1974, addressing Hong Kong Phooey’s origins. But I do remember Scatman Cruthers’ distinctly scratchy voice in the lead role, voicing the clueless crime fighter who changed in a filing cabinet (stealing a page from Superman’s phone booth, no doubt) and received crucial back up from his feline sidekick. I’m actually a little surprised the cartoon only ran for 16 episodes, because it’s impact on pop culture is pretty strong… strong enough to justify a feature film 37 years later.

Alex Zamm, director of the Dr. Dolittle sequel Million Dollar Mutts, will helm Hong Kong, and Murphy’s Tower Heist director Brett Ratner is on board as a producer. And just when we were ready to lead the “Eddie Murphy’s Back” bandwagon, based on early looks at his performance in Heist, I’m back to questioning his creative decisions. Granted, Phooey could end up being very funny, and casting Murphy in a role once occupied by Cruthers isn’t exactly sacrilegious. It has to be much better than Smurfs, Yogi Bear or Garfield. Then again, how could it be worse?
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