[Screen It]


(1998) (Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Minor Moderate None Mild
Moderate None Minor None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor None Mild Mild

Comedy: A frazzled TV executive at a shopping network hopes for increased sales when he recruits an itinerant "holy man" as his new on-air sales pitchman.
Ricky Hayman (JEFF GOLDBLUM) is a frazzled TV executive at the Good Buy Shopping Network, a Miami-based TV channel that hawks a wide variety of odd and often cheap products. Unfortunately, sales are poor, his assistant Barry (JON CRYER) informs him he's nearly broke, and to top it off, the new owner, Mr. McBainbridge (ROBERT LOGGIA), has just given him a two-week ultimatum to revive the network's profits.

Upon sighting gorgeous Kate Newell (KELLY PRESTON), Ricky believes his luck may have changed and he tries to put the moves on her. He soon discovers, however, that she's a media analyst who's been hired by McBainbridge to shake things up at the network and revive the flagging sales and, not surprisingly, wants no part of Ricky's amorous advances.

Stuck on the side of the road changing a flat, Ricky and Kate's lives take a turn when they spot a mysterious and friendly, but potentially crazy man approaching them offering to help. "G" (EDDIE MURPHY), however, turns out to be an itinerant "holy man" who's set out on a personal spiritual pilgrimage. While Ricky is initially cautious about G, Kate's immediately drawn to his winning charisma and soothing demeanor.

A series of events leads to G temporarily staying with Ricky. During a business party held at his home, Ricky comes up with a brilliant idea. After seeing his clients' positive reaction to G's presence, he decides to make him an on-air personality on his network. Agreeing to do so to help Ricky, G's initial appearances are awkward and unorthodox, but sales suddenly increase and he soon becomes a national sensation.

This doesn't sit well with Scott Hawkes (ERIC McCORMACK), a ruthlessly ambitious employee who finds G's success a threat to his ascension up the corporate ladder. Hawkes' efforts to undermine G's popularity, along with Kate's eventual realization that they're unfairly using G's natural goodheartedness, lead to changes that no one at the station expects.

If they're fans of Murphy ("The Nutty Professor," "Dr. Dolittle"), anyone else in the cast, or of heartfelt comedies, they just might.
For some language.
  • EDDIE MURPHY plays a happy, generous and charismatic man whose spiritual pilgrimage is temporarily interrupted by his meeting Ricky and Kate. While we never learn anything about him (whether he has mystical powers, etc...) he's a good role model who expounds the theme of living and enjoying life to its fullest.
  • JEFF GOLDBLUM plays a harried TV executive who will do anything to save his job, including taking advantage of G's generous nature. A bit of a Casanova, Ricky eventually comes to realize the error of his ways in his behavior toward both G and Kate.
  • KELLY PRESTON plays a media analyst who immediately falls for G's charm and goodhearted demeanor.
  • ROBERT LOGGIA plays the new and tough owner of the network who supplies most of the film's cussing and generally only cares about profits and not people.
  • ERIC McCORMACK plays a ruthlessly ambitious employee who tries to undermine G's success and popularity.


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    A lightweight, but enjoyable enough diversion, "Holy Man" offers some decent laughs and occasional touching moments, but isn't the laugh-fest most are probably expecting after seeing the film's promotional commercials. While one can't fault the film for not living up to its advertising campaign (different creative entities usually handle the two), it's certainly not as funny as it should be or could have been given the premise.

    Considering the massive success and proliferation of the shopping networks that have popped up across the country on the nation's cable channels, along with the products they often hawk, such material is certainly ripe for the picking.

    Thankfully avoiding the spoof genre that's recently been firing mostly blanks ("BASEketball," "Mafia!"), the filmmaking team of director Stephen Herek ("Mr. Holland's Opus," "101 Dalmatians") and Oscar winning screenwriter Tom Schulman ("Dead Poets Society"), has opted for the more standard comedy approach to poking fun at that industry. Inserting their jabs into a relatively conventional story, the effects are often amusing, but only occasionally quite funny.

    The film does offer a spate of fictitious consumer products, a few of which are inherently funny, while most of the others are only mildly amusing, as well as a range celebrities, such as Dan Marino, Betty White, Florence Henderson and others, to hawk them.

    Ranging from James Brown dealing his "I've fallen and I can't get up" Soul Survivor alarm (which emits his patented vocal outbursts), Soupy Sales promoting a glue gun (where we see his "son" glued to the ceiling), Marino selling an under the hood auto oven, and other products such as the "Little Squirt" bidet and some samurai knives reportedly authenticated by the former owner's present day descendants, such scenes are cute and/or amusing, but rarely induce any deep belly laughs.

    After a few of those, most moviegoers will find that those scenes aren't as clever as they could have been. After all, "informercials" have been targeted before. Who can forget Dan Aykroyd and the Bass-O-Matic from the early days of "Saturday Night Live?"

    With all of the products sold on TV, I also found myself wishing that an even greater range of similar TV material, such as the psychic networks, the real estate gurus and, of course, Mr. Tony Robbins, would have been similarly (but more creatively and humorously) skewered.

    Even so, film's best and funniest moment comes from the scenes you may have already seen in the film's commercials. Murphy's character, roaming the expansive network set and dropping in on unsuspecting celebrities hawking their goods, momentarily stops at Morgan Fairchild's segment.

    Promoting an electricity-based facial toner, Fairchild's face is wired to this device and we know it's only a matter of time before Murphy will give her the zap. Despite having repeatedly seen the moments where her face exaggeratedly contorts and vibrates from the shock, the scene is still quite funny and a big crowd pleaser.

    Nearly as good is a scene where Goldblum must exaggeratedly pantomime his intentions while trying silently to tell his assistant -- who's posing as a doctor talking to Murphy -- what to say to him. Certainly silly, but funny, the scene works and one only wishes there were more similar moments in the rest of the film.

    Instead, Herek and Schulman have opted to go the "touchy-feely" route, hoping to hit the same inspirational notes that the screenwriter effectively mined with Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society." While the filmmakers have thrown in a few nice moments -- that, in fact, finally give the film some much needed depth and resonance -- more often than not they feel artificially forced into the overall story. It's as if the screenplay blueprint commanded "Insert moving or inspirational moment here."

    It also must have prompted a music cue, for during such scenes Alan Silvestri's score prominently rises up to the occasion to remind us that we're watching one of those sentimental or inspirational moments. Despite all of that, the film never quite succeeds with the material that made the marginally similar Steve Martin movie, "Leap of Faith," work so well.

    Unlike that film that toyed with whether Martin's character was a fraud, a greedy businessman or perhaps even something of a divinely touched human being, this film never tries to explore that issue. Although some early scenes suggest there's perhaps a tangible "other worldly" nature about G -- the "wading" through heavy traffic and his broken watch trick -- that topic is quickly abandoned and never again reexamined.

    While such a dismal of relatively important plot information is an interesting approach to take, in the end it leaves Murphy's character as enigmatic as it was at the beginning. I suppose some moviegoers won't mind that continued mystery element, but many will probably wish they knew a bit more about G.

    The performances are enjoyable and good across the board, but certainly not spectacular. Murphy ("The Nutty Professor," "Dr. Dolittle") gives his version of a subdued, "kinder and gentler" performance, and while likeable and featuring that ever-winning huge grin, he doesn't deliver the laugh-a-minute performance some may think is coming.

    Jeff Goldblum ("Jurassic Park," "Independence Day"), one of my personal favorite thespians to watch, also delivers a winning performance in his role. Having toned down his near stuttering, scattershot-like delivery that some moviegoers enjoy (such as in "Jurassic"), but others find a bit irritating, his cautious -- and often slyly funny -- reactions are the perfect counter to Murphy's character.

    Kelly Preston ("Jerry Maguire," "Addicted To Love") is also likeable and charming in her role, although her character's professional status is somewhat undermined by the filmmakers' apparent need to dress her in tightfitting outfits throughout the production to make her constantly "easy on the eyes" for the men in the audience.

    Lightweight and fluffy, the film manages to be moderately entertaining despite its somewhat heavy-handed approach to sentimentality and the overall lack of sustained or big laughs. Whenever a near capacity audience is stone silent throughout large chunks of a reported comedy, it isn't difficult to realize that something's missing.

    Even so, you can't really hate this film, and for the most part it's as enjoyable as a wad of cotton candy at a local fair. It's colorful and pretty and tastes good going down, but it doesn't take long before you realize there's not much to it and once it's gone, you've pretty much forgotten about it. As such, we give "Holy Man" a not quite heavenly 5 out of 10.

    Mild profanity gives this film its PG rating, but the worst of it is 1 "s" word (and 2 uses of "G- damn" for those concerned with that). Some bad attitudes are present, but none are horribly portrayed, and some very brief scatological humor exists.

    A few scenes include certain phrases or bits of behavior that may prove to be imitative fodder for some kids, one of which involves nonchalantly crossing a busy highway, and another shooting a person with a bulletproof vest as a demonstration on a TV show.

    Beyond that and some minor sexual comments and social drinking, the rest of the film has little or no major objectionable content. Since kids may just want to see this film, however, you might want to take a closer look at what we've listed if you're concerned about the film's appropriateness.

  • People have drinks at Ricky's business party.
  • Hawkes tells one of Ricky's clients that alcohol and drugs will help with his fear of flying.
  • A woman brings McBainbridge and Hawkes what appears to be brandy, but neither drinks it.
  • Some frat guys have beer.
  • Kate and Ricky have wine with a meal.
  • The following, while neither bloody nor gory, relates to scatological humor that we include in this category.
  • G has Ricky try a beverage he's concocted and then jokingly tells him that one of the ingredients is his urine (which isn't true and is said in an attempt to get Ricky to laugh), and this is later called "urine-ade."
  • G tells Ricky that he "has to go stinky" (use the bathroom, we presume).
  • G, trying to make a joke about a way to divert one's attention from the fear of flying, tells a man to grab his testicles and slap them together (not done).
  • Ricky has some for doing what he can to save his job, although that involves taking advantage of G (and even gets Barry to pose as a doctor ordering G to stay in Miami).
  • McBainbridge has both for only caring about the business bottom line and not the people who work for him.
  • Hawkes has both for setting out to undermine and possibly destroy G's success and popularity. Along the way he pays a woman to lie about G being her deadbeat husband and father to her children, and she agrees to this for that payment.
  • A guy in a passing truck throws his full cup (contents unknown) and hits G with it just to be mean.
  • It's possible some viewers may find a scene where an on-air personality thinks she sees Jesus in a stain on G's shirt and he then says that it looks more like Merv Griffith, to be somewhat objectionable.
  • None.
  • Shotguns: Used during an on-air promo for a bulletproof vest in which two men shoot a man wearing the vest and blow him backwards through a fence.
  • Phrases: "I'll be dipped in sh*t," "Bastard," "Screw up," "Loser," "Dopey," "Psyche your mind," "Urine-ade," "Jerk," "Free willy" (reference to G skinny dipping), "Nutcase" and "Nuts" (crazy), "Screwed up" and "Freak."
  • During an on-air promo for a bulletproof vest, two men shoot a man wearing the vest and blow him backwards through a fence (but he's not harmed).
  • G walks across a multilane highway through approaching cars without looking or even trying to avoid them.
  • G has Ricky try a beverage he's concocted and then jokingly tells him one of the ingredients is his urine (which isn't true and is said in an attempt to get Ricky to laugh).
  • During a magic trick, G seemingly smashes a Rolex watch in a handkerchief with Ricky's shoe (but it's later returned unbroken).
  • During an on-air show, G suddenly takes a demo chainsaw and repeatedly cuts through a picnic table.
  • None.
  • A few scenes have just a minor bit of dramatically tense music in them.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "s" word, 4 asses (1 used with "hole"), 4 hells, 2 damns, 1 S.O.B., 1 crap, and 7 uses of "Oh my God," 2 uses each of "G-damn" and "My God" and 1 use each of "Good God" (and possibly more), "For God's sakes," "For Christ's sakes," "God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • Ricky talks with a woman whose outfit shows some cleavage and later some women on the street show the same, and Kate wears an outfit that shows some.
  • The real life Betty White, hawking a perfume product, comments that she "makes love twice a day" and after an enjoyable sensation passes through her body she adds, "Ooh, three times."
  • Barry, struggling for adjectives to describe Ricky's latest business plan, says "erotic?" among others (it isn't).
  • Noticing that G is skinny dipping in the ocean (or other body of water -- but we see no nudity), Ricky comments on his "free willy."
  • Later, G makes an offhand comment about "a man with no penis" and several people then comment about whether he can say "penis" on the air.
  • Although there's nothing sexual about it, G's show is renamed "The G-Spot."
  • Hawkes smokes a cigarette.
  • None.
  • G's message of living and enjoying life to the fullest extent possible and his questioning of society's rat race lifestyle and whether that's the right way to live.
  • The idea of the shopping network to use whatever means possible to get consumers to feel that they need to buy certain products whether they really need to or not.
  • During an on-air promo for a bulletproof vest, two men shoot a man wearing the vest and blow him backwards through a fence (but he's not harmed).
  • An exercise guy head-butts his partner as the two psyche each other up before an appearance on the show.
  • A guy in a passing truck throws his full cup (contents unknown) and hits G with it just to be mean.
  • During a magic trick, G seemingly smashes a Rolex watch with Ricky's shoe (but it's later returned unbroken).
  • As a joke, G repeatedly activates an electrified facial toner that moderately shocks Morgan Fairchild whose face is wired to the device.
  • During an on-air show, G takes a demo chainsaw and repeatedly cuts through a picnic table.

  • Reviewed October 5, 1998

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