114 minutes | Rated: PG
Opened: Friday, October 9, 1998
Directed by Stephen Herek
Starring Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum, Kelly Preston, Robert Loggia, Jon Cryer & Eric McCormack
Cameos: Morgan Fairchild, Betty White, Florence Henderson, James Brown, Soupy Sales, Willard Scott & Nino Cerruti
This film is on the Worst of 1998 list.
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 15%|
LETTERBOX: NOT NECESSARY
Murphy's always translates well to video, even when he's as dull as he is here.
Murphy lacks personality as apostle hocking wares on shopping channel
Some people like to tell me that as a movie reviewer, I'm obligated to never walk out on a movie. I disagree. As long as I say I walked out in my written review, why should I be made to suffer?
I love movies. I'd rather watch movies than do almost anything else. So if I write that I walked out on a movie, what could be a more clear statement?
I walked out on "Holy Man," the new Eddie Murphy movie in which he plays a vaguely spiritual apostle who becomes the product-hocking hit of a TV shopping network.
Although, to call it an Eddie Murphy movie is misleading. Eddie Murphy movies have energy, sass and dynamic -- even the bad ones. "Holy Man" is lifeless to the point of inducing narcolepsy.
Co-starring Jeff Goldblum and Kelly Preston as a pair of desperate producers for the failing retail cable channel, the movie feels like a 25-words-or-less pitch that never made it beyond the 25 words.
Linen robed Murphy has a chance meeting with Preston and Goldblum, who devises a scheme put him on TV and sell pottery. Instead Murphy starts spouting New Age gobbledy-gook that would make L. Ron Hubbard blush, sending the network execs into a panic (it never occurs to anyone to just pull the plug on him). But then the phones light up and soon a compromise is struck -- Murphy can be as affirming and ethereal as he likes as long as he shows off the wares.
Exactly what appeals to the viewing public about Murphy's Zen fellow is never clear. He is so understated in his attempt to portray a sense of oddball enlightenment that he forgoes personality all together, and without his spark the plot lurches along via the most meager of sit-com coincidences and misunderstandings.
Goldblum and Preston, both perfectly capable actors, don't have consistent, or even definable characters, either. Short of bickering in that falsely endearing way that makes it clear they'll be a couple by the last reel (despite their remarkable lack of chemistry), they have little to do in this dead flat script, and you can see in their performances that they realized this early on. It's like they're not even trying.
Written by Tom Schulman, who won an Oscar for "Dead Poets Society" then tanked into scratching out insipid scripts like "What About Bob?" and "8 Heads in a Duffel Bag," the picture depends heavily on shopworn plot devices like the nefarious, Armani-suited rival who sabotages Goldblum in an attempt to take over his job -- and even these gimmicks are riddled with burdensome loopholes.
But most of blame for the sorry state of this tedious comedy falls to director Stephen Herek ("Mr. Holland's Opus" and the regrettable, live action "101 Dalmatians"), who failed to recognize that his movie was flat-lining, apparently hoping Eddie Murphy's presence alone would be enough to bring it to life.
It didn't, and in all of "Holy Man" (well, in the hour I saw) not one scene has even an inkling of energy, spirit or laughs.
Even the copious cameos by Morgan Fairchild, Betty White, James Brown and others -- pimping such goods as "Clam" perfume -- are dead on arrival.