As G (Eddie Murphy), the mysterious guru dressed in ubiquitous white
robes, has his first moments before the cameras at the Good Buy Shopping
Network (GBSN), he says nothing for what seems like an eternity. The
audience for HOLY MAN will undoubtedly be just as nonplussed as G's
fictional television viewers since little happens for interminably long
periods of time in the movie.
After successes as widely varied as MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS and THE MIGHTY
DUCKS, director Stephen Herek has a losing hand in HOLY MAN. The script
by Tom Schulman doesn't know where it wants to take the movie. There
isn't nearly enough humor for a comedy, and the attempts at poignancy
are awkward at best. Schulman's last script, 8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG,
was awful enough to earn the picture prominent positions on many of last
year's lists of the worst films. Still, Schulman has had his successes
too, including HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS and THE DEAD POETS SOCIETY.
The story starts with GBSN producer Ricky Hayman (Jeff Goldblum) down on
his luck. The head of the network, played by Robert Loggia, is
threatening to fire him for GBSN's 27 months of flat sales. As is
popular today, Ricky argues word definitions in an attempt to keep his
job. "It depends on what you call 'flat,'" he reasons.
The network chief brings in a hotshot new producer named Kate Newell,
played by Kelly Preston from JERRY MAGUIRE, to work alongside him. The
movie tries to create a romantic angle between the two of them, but this
subplot goes up a dead-end street like the rest of the story.
Through a lucky breakdown on the highway, Ricky and Kelly meet G. Later
G manages to walk into a shopping network show with instant positive
results. Product sales skyrocket. Before long he has his own program
named -- what else -- "The G Spot," whose tag line is "a higher state of
consciousness and non-stop shopping." His mixture of pop religion and
soft-sale capitalism fascinates viewers. Would you rather be a "Bay
Watch" babe or the Dalai Lama? is one of the tough questions he poses to
The movie is peppered with a series of cameos by everyone from football
players to old stars in television shopping parodies. These comedic
softballs are missed left and right. Only the one with Morgan Fairchild
is anything thing close to a homerun. As G walks onto the set, Morgan
is demonstrating the "Insta Touch" which consists of a car battery and a
dozen probes attached to her face. When he turns up the juice, her
toothy smile gets eight inches wide, thanks to special effects.
Eddie Murphy, although he is given some raunchy lines totally
inappropriate in a PG rated movie, is remarkably restrained. He creates
a smiling Buddha of a figure with the liveliness of stone. One can have
vigor in a role without being obscene, but Eddie's brand of humor seems
to work best only if it is relatively unhampered.
In a movie that is generally as mild as milquetoast, there are
nevertheless many parts that parents will find objectionable. The
frequent profanity and sexual humor are not appropriate in a PG movie
likely to attract kids. And why do we have a joke with the word "penis"
mentioned three times in about as many sentences?
Since most of the jokes are laced with sexual innuendo, the movie really
isn't for kids. On the other hand, there isn't enough humor in the
movie for teenagers or adults so the target audience is questionable.
Sometimes, as in Jeff Goldblum's long monologue on his father's failure
as a salesman, the movie tries hard, too hard, to be touching. Never
does it succeed as anything other than a comedy, but it is a comedy with
remarkably little laughter.
Although the movie has a long elapsed time of almost two hours, the
director spends most of it trying to run out the clock. When the film's
corny ending finally arrives, it is as unbelievable as it is
Surely, the test screening audiences must have warned them that the
movie contained long stretches of humorless and pointless material. Why
didn't they do massive surgery to trim this celluloid fat? In its place
some truly funny home shopping sequences could have easily been added.
HOLY MAN runs 1:54. It is rated PG for profanity and sexual humor, but
parents should treat it as PG-13. The film is acceptable for kids
around 10 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 9, gave the movie ** ½. He liked the television
commercials and the "cute" woman who played Kate. His buddy Alan, age
9, gave it **. His favorite part was Morgan Fairchild's "electrocution"
scene. Both boys seemed restless and relatively uninterested during the
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes