Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel
HOLY MAN (1998) * 1/4

Directed by Stephen Herek. Written by Tom Schulman. Photography, Adrian Biddle. Editing, Trudy Ship. Production design, Andrew McAlpine. Music by Alan Silvestri. Cast:  Eddie Murphy ("G"), Jeff Goldblum (Ricky), Kelly Preston (Kate), Robert Loggia (McBainbridge), Jon Cryer (Barry), Eric McCormack (Scott Hawkes) et al. A Touchstone release. 114 minutes. PG (references to body parts and functions)

Nothing holy about this flick, but plenty that's hokey. Ricky is a hustling producer in the Good Buy Shopping Network (GBSN), located in Miami's South Beach and lately acquired by crass capitalist McBainbridge. The boss, made furious by 27 months of "flatness" gives Ricky an ultimatum: "You have two weeks to bring the sales up 8% or you're fired."

Ricky, at his wits (such as they are) end, thinks only a miracle can save him. He also falls for Kate, newly hired as a gee-whiz marketer. While changing a tire on the highway, these two meet Eddie Murphy, a cheerful, shaved-head eccentric garbed in a vaguely Indian-Asian two-piece outfit. He will (how did you guess?!) turn out to be the prayed-for miracle.

The encounter is most artificial. So is everything that follows. Somehow (don't ask) all three people make friends. Somehow (PLEASE don't ask again), Murphy, mysterious down to his name (just "G"), becomes the instrument of making the GBSN a hit, and promoting the love affair between Ricky and Kate, an affair that follows the tired cliche of antagonism becoming love.

A protracted, dull  introduction and inane fast talk impede rather than help the story. It picks up a bit when, at Rick's reception for potential sponsors, G (by now Rick's house-guest) shows up and spices up things somewhat. Vaguely guru-ish, certainly upbeat and humorous, he hypnotizes Nino Cerruti (the Italian tycoon, played by himself), cures him of his fear of flying, and performs magic (prestidigitation) with a Rolex. All this simply postpones the action for about three-quarters of an hour.

When G is somehow (thanks for not asking) made to go on the network to increase sales, he debunks the products and the customers, but spouts "wisdom" and true values that somehow (don't ask) send the sales skyrocketing. It's all silliness and inanity.

How sad. At his best Murphy can be wildly funny with his distinctive ebullience, his infectious, toothy grin, his patter. Not here. The film does have the novelty of a "new," quiet, presumably thoughtful Murphy, but does little to exploit it. The movie has no bite, no zip, no energy.

Its elements are disconnected, illogical and incredible. Murphy, even in this bummer, is nice to watch, but  he overspouts platitudes and cliche "morality." The Goldblum-Preston couple --who, take up half of the film and weaken Murphy's moments-- have zero personality. (Goldblum's deep tan seems to indicate more time spent at the beach than at work -- but it still cannot rival George Hamilton's and the champion's, Douglas Fairbanks' Sr.). Loggia is a caricature. The balance of the supporting cast (including an ill-conceived, unreal villain) were written in with the Press-this-Key-for-Reaction 2 method.

Satirizing TV shopping, its hucksters and its public, ought to be a golden subject. But here, it becomes a toothless dud in script and execution. This, for a host of reasons, from phony attempts at being farcical, peddling products that are outlandish and ridiculous, overall incoherence, ineffectual morality, sluggishness, lack of humor and effective dialogue, the absence of a real focus and point of view... This makes the movie a yawner with just a handful of amusing moments.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel