This is one of those "why don't they make 'em like that any more" movies. If it starred, say, Jimmie Stewart and Jean Arthur, everyone would look upon it fondly, as a treasured masterpiece. But no, it's the often-abrasive Eddie Murphy, and the frequently hard-to-take Jeff Goldblum. If you can handle the casting, though, this is a marvelous movie, transcending its formula to deliver moments of hilarity as well as a thoughtful message.
Jeff Goldblum is, to me, impeccably cast as an ambitious but unsuccessful salesman. The explanation, later in the movie, of how he traveled with his father on sales trips, sets the character up beautifully. We come to understand that his lack of success really stems from a lack of commitment to the no-holds-barred ethos of the salesman. And, of course, that's a good thing.
Murphy plays "G", who may or may not be divine, but certainly is other-worldly. He's the opposite of Goldblum's character: totally centered, with no attachment to anything, least of all the crass commercialism of the shopping network where Goldblum works. Naturally, he disrupts Goldblum's life, but the kicker comes when Goldblum desperately puts G on the air, and finds that sincerity sells better than salesmanship.
A number of reviewers have complained that there's not enough of Murphy. Maybe so, if you're expecting a full-on Eddie Murphy vehicle. But Holy Man is more than just an "Eddie Murphy" movie, and G the sort of showcase role that no actor could resist. It really lets Murphy shine, displaying more subtlety than usual... yet spinning nicely off his usual sarcastic persona.
The plot, to be sure, is formulaic. You can see the twists coming a mile away. So what? This type of cinema is as ritualistic as Greek tragedy, or Kabuki theater. The point isn't in where it's going, but in how it gets there. And get there it does, making its little Zen point about materialism versus spirituality in a unique and compelling way.
And, at times, a hilariously funny way. The 'magic trick' G performs with a Rolex watch is side-splitting. But it's easily topped by the gut-wrenchingly funny antics of G as he roams from one set to another in the TV studio. What he does to Morgan Fairchild is one of the great moments of sadistic slapstick. (I admire her for appearing in this unflattering scene; she must have an amazing sense of humor.)
I'll admit that the two stars will limit this film's appeal. But even if you're not a fan of Murphy or Goldblum, it's worth taking a chance. Personally, I tend to find Goldblum overpowering; I was definitely rooting for the Tyranosaurus to catch up with his asinine "chaotician" in Jurassic Park (1 and 2). But in some roles he just works, and this is one of them. (Another is "Beyond Suspicion," a.k.a. "Auggie Rose.")
This is not only a good movie, it's one that I actually pull down off the shelf and watch, far more frequently than many of the better-known 'classics.' I've seen it at least four times, and intend to see it many more.