October 11, 1998 -- Eddie Murphy stars in "Holy Man," a story about a spiritual man who becomes a media star on a home shopping television network due to an odd set of circumstances.
It is really a love story between shopping network executive Ricky Hayman (Jeff Goldblum) and fellow executive Kate Newell (Kelly Preston). As the story opens Hayman is about to lose his job unless he can start selling more infomercial junk in the next two weeks. His first pass at Newell is a strikeout.
Hayman has a chance encounter with the mysterious holy man, "G," (Murphy) and, desperate for results, decides to give him a shot at selling stuff on television. "G" promptly tells viewers that material goods will not make them happy. Nevertheless, viewers start buying more stuff, because "G" seems to fill that spiritual void in their life.
"G" is actually just mouthing a series of platitudes about the well-known shortcomings of our materialistic society, but Murphy delivers the message so well he actually got me thinking about what he was saying. Murphy generally plays characters with more of an edge, but in this and his previous hits "Dr. Doolittle" and "The Nutty Professor," he shows an ability to play sweet, likable characters as well.
Goldblum and Preston are also good together and Robert Loggia, who has become typecast in this sort of role is the gruff, ruthless network director. There are also some cameo roles by celebrities who are flogging products on the network.
The love story works and Murphy is likable as the Holy Man, the film doesn't have as many laughs as it should. The whole idea of infomercials is ripe for satire. Philosophically, the film tries to bridge the gap between spirituality and materialism, and can't do it. Although the film is a comedy, it can't overcome the fact that it is profoundly sad that people in this country are so spiritually starved they would seek fulfillment by watching a shopping channel. This film rates a C.
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