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Holy Man

Starring Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum and Kelly Preston
Screenplay by Tom Schulman
Directed by Stephen Herek

IN SHORT: Warm fuzzies all around, but not the "Eddie Murphy movie" you may think.

Cranky got an e-mail a couple of weeks back from a reader who complained that I've gotten "mellow" in the last six months. Yeah, well, if all I wanted to do was sit back and slam every movie that came out, it would be really easy. I could look at a movie's television spot, say the one for Holy Man for example, and immediately write a screaming dis for the urine joke/ spit take that is in it. But I'll clue you in on something very interesting about this particular movie. In the sneak preview audience I sat in, filled with reviewers and guests, there was an audible and even physical anticipation of this joke. Cranky's gut feeling is that it's because Eddie Murphy has learned to draw a very sharp line in his comedic sandbox, and he's a good enough comic to know how far to nudge that line, get a laugh, and move on. And, yeah, spit takes are funny. But that joke is so out of character with the rest of this flick that a whole new batch of commercials for the thing showed up in the two days before it opened. Let's move on...

In the case of Holy Man, Murphy also demonstrates the ability to work and play well with others, in this case with Jeff Goldblum, who is the real star of the movie and delivers a performance as close to broad comedy as anything Cranky can remember of Goldblum's career. It isn't that the man can't play big (he's held his ground with dinosaurs, fer cryin' out loud) it's just that the basic character we've seen him build roles on usually has a very dry (some would call it totally oblivious) humor. This time out he not only cracks a very big smile, he actually plays charades (with everything that implies in your more than active imaginations).

Here the sitch: Ricky Hayman (Goldblum) seems to be the heavily in debt, totally materialistic general sales manager for a home shopping network that is decidedly second rate. TV celebs (Morgan Fairchild, Betty White, Willard Scott for example) hawk merchandise that can best be described as, um, crap. Ricky's tendency to hit on every good looking salesmodel backfires when Kate Newell (Kelly Preston) is hired to spark sales at the net by bossman Mr. McBainbridge (Robert Loggia). Yeah, you know that somehow Ricky and Kate will get together, which is where the introduction of the mono-alphabetically named "G" (Murphy) comes in. Murphy so underplays this role as a "holy man on a journey" (to only God knows where) that he is merely the enabler of a number of situations that are funny as individual gags. You can obsess if you'd like as to why a man who preaches that possessions are bad can appear on TV and sell thousands of Astroturf welcome mats without even trying. Cranky giggled at the absurdity.

The screenplay may be a by-the-Syd-Field book kind of flick, but the screenplay by Tom Shulman (who wrote Dead Poets Society) is consistently interesting and Goldblum and Preston make a lovely couple. Murphy kicks in enough twinkly eyed gags to keep it all moving under the direction of Stephen Herek, who pushed all the tiny little happy buttons that Cranky has tried to hide ever since Herek last pushed 'em, back in Mr. Holland's Opus.

Is Holy Man funny? Yes. Is it sweet, in that first you hate him then you don't romantic way? Yes. Is it a good popcorn flick? Yes, and yes to the date flick question, too. But it's not the flatulence in your face Eddie Murphy movie that we've seen in Dr. Doolittle and The Nutty Professor.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Holy Man, he would have paid . . .


Solid date flick.

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