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Holy Man

Review by Gregory Avery
Posted 9 October 1998

  Directed by Stephen Herek

Starring Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum,
Kelly Preston, Jon Cryer and Robert Loggia.

Written by Tom Schulman.

With a bald head and wearing a simple cotton caftan, and first seen bending to the ground to sense a sunlit area of lawn grass, Eddie Murphy should be risible, but he's not. Playing a spiritual pilgrim, Murphy projects a perfectly convincing blend of calmness, sincerity, and candid delight of the type that causes people to either immediately put up their defenses, or to drop them. It's an ingratiating performance. Unfortunately, Murphy doesn't have a movie in which to play this role.

Murphy's character is shown meeting up with a couple of TV businesspeople -- played, agonizingly, by Jeff Goldblum and Kelly Preston -- who get him to appear on a home shopping channel because, apparently, his demeanor will cause people to buy products. But there's no more reason for him to go on a home shopping channel than there is for him to appear on VH1 or CSPAN, and the movie doesn't provide one, either. (Except that someone, somewhere, thought that home shopping channels were funny in and of themselves. They were wrong.) Instead, the movie grinds along contriving ways by which Murphy's character confounds everyone's expectations while dispensing simple, subtle truths. It also makes Morgan Fairchild the victim of a grotesquely unfunny, but nonetheless prolonged, sight gag.

Ploddingly directed (by Stephen Herek) from an sometimes abysmal script (by Tom Schulman), this film, vapid and transparent, would be worth attacking if the effort didn't seem so ultimately pointless, like pummeling a ghost.

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