You almost feel sorry for Eddie Murphy while watching Holy Man. Murphy’s done funny-funny, funny-violent, and funny-sweet, but he hasn’t done funny-serious, hasn’t had his Truman Show. Considered abstractly, Holy Man‘s traipse through the wilds of consumerism and higher purpose must have seemed like a chance for the proverbial stretch, but not even Eddie can save this ill-conceived mess of a movie.
First glimpsed walking down a Miami causeway in ashram/pajama-party wear, Murphy plays his itinerant spiritualist, G, as preternaturally good-natured, a fully actualized update of his Coming to America turn. G is on a vague pilgrimage when he’s almost run down by two home shopping network execs. Ricky (Jeff Goldblum) thinks G is a fruitcake but Kate (Kelly Preston) thinks he’s the nicest human she’s ever met. They offer him aid and shelter and it’s a short hop from there to the thoroughly clichéd main action, wherein G teaches his new buds the meaning of life, loyalty, love, et cetera. As written by Tom Schulman (Dead Poets Society), Holy Man‘s stab at relevancy involves setting G loose in Ricky and Kate’s office. G takes over the soundstage, railing against materialism, but those dopey viewers in TV land not only connect with G, they buy oodles of the crap on sale behind him. G’s martyrlike disaffection with stardom grows in lockstep with Ricky’s spiritual side. This is a low yuk outing (all the jokes fit in the trailer), with the focus on Goldblum and Preston’s listless romance. The star does some work here, but like the station he invades, Holy Man is in the business of pitching cheap knockoffs of better wares.