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who knew that in 16 years eddie murphy , who made such a brash , raucous big-screen splash in _48_hrs . _ ,
would become . . .
cuddly .
the disconcerting trend begun in this summer's cutesy , largely laugh-free _doctor_dolittle_ continues with this earnest-to-a-fault dramedy .
although he is top-billed , here murphy is merely support for jeff goldblum , who plays ricky hayman , the programming director at a home shopping network .
sales are way down , and ricky's job hangs by a thread until he meets g ( murphy ) , a mysterious spiritual guru whom a desperate ricky puts on the air .
while sales skyrocket and g becomes an overnight sensation , the reinvigorated ricky's greed grows , endangering his budding romance with a goodhearted media research consultant ( kelly preston ) .
writer tom schulman has some promising ideas , satirizing home shopping and infomercials and the nature of instant celebrity .
but these ideas would have more bite if stephen herek had invested any energy into the direction of the film .
the sluggishly paced _holy_man_ is not only slow and overlong ( 113 minutes ) , but an unfunny bore , and murphy can do little to juice up the proceedings ; cleansed of both the attitude _and_ comic sensibility that made him a star ( g is , for the most part , a straight man ) , he is a curiously lifeless presence .
goldblum is actually quite good , but it's hard for the audience to sustain much interest in his character and spiritual journey when the director doesn't seem to be much interested , either .