Holy Man

1998, PG, 113 min. Directed by Stephen Herek. Starring Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum, Kelly Preston, Robert Loggia, Jon Cryer, Eric McCormack.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 9, 1998

All the advance signs looked discouraging, but I still kept thinking: How bad could a comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Jeff Goldblum really be? Well, let's put it this way … you won't ever hear me asking that particular question again. The more-often-brilliant-than-not Murphy and Goldblum have both hit new career nadirs in this tedious, unfunny comedy about a slumping shopping-network TV channel in Miami that hires a freelance guru to boost its sales. The set-up offers what seems to be potentially sharp-edged opportunities for satire of our modern mercenary media and national desire for belief -- whether it be the quest for a spiritual higher plane or faith in the power of material things to improve our lot in life -- yet the film manages to skirt all its keen potential and mire itself in prosaic boy-meets-girl-and-kooky-sidekick plot machinations. Ultimately, the ascetic approach may work best with Holy Man -- eliminate its consumption from your life plan and your burden will be lifted, my friends. Goldblum plays the part of Ricky Hayman, a top executive at the Good Buy Shopping Network (GBSN). He's a craven, soulless, and moderately powerful paragon of modern life who harbors contempt for the products he hawks as well as the lovely models he dates. But Ricky's job is hanging by a thread, and he must prove his mettle to the station's new owner (Loggia) and his pert new media analyst Kate Newell (Preston). Enter the mysterious “holy man” named G (Murphy), a pilgrim who first appears to him by the side of the highway. G attaches himself to Ricky like Marlowe's Ghost, here on a mission to guide Ricky toward the real meaning of life. Or maybe he's just a crazy scam artist who spouts vaguely spiritual feel-good aphorisms. The script by Tom Shulman (who found success early in his career with an Oscar win for his second screenplay, Dead Poets Society, but has recently hit the skids with such monumental clunkers as Medicine Man and 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag) is woefully shopworn and predictable and brimming with implausibilities. The stars evidence no chemistry whatsoever, either with the characters they are playing or with each other. Murphy underplays his comic mannerisms, as if in deference to the belief that he is indeed playing a holy man. Goldblum, as is usual, conveys a thinking man's twitchiness but you suspect his eyes are just darting about madly in search of the exit signs. As a couple, Goldblum and Preston give off no real sparks; their leap from animosity to passion is barely noticeable. Amplifying the film's lackadaisical attitude is its poorly conceived compositions that awkwardly cut characters off at the forehead, as if the filmmakers didn't know how to accommodate Goldblum's tall stature. Holy Man needs to be sent on a retreat.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Stephen Herek Films
Man of the House
Filmed in Austin with Tommy Lee Jones, Man of the House is nothing to write home about.

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 4, 2005

Life or Something Like It
Let's play an association game. Angelina Jolie is to Life or Something Like It as Tiffany's is to a suburban strip mall. Clarification: Just as ...

Kimberley Jones, April 26, 2002

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
All That Breathes
The struggle by three men to save the endangered black kite

March 31, 2023

SXSW Film Review: <i>Joy Ride</i>
Film Review: Joy Ride
Groundbreaking comedy doesn't break the raunchy mold

March 19, 2023


Holy Man, Stephen Herek, Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum, Kelly Preston, Robert Loggia, Jon Cryer, Eric McCormack

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle