October 19, 1998 12:00 PM

Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum, Kelly Preston

When Eddie Murphy zooms through a movie in high comic gear (the first Beverly Hills Cop and The Nutty Professor), he’s hilarious. When he disengages or merely coasts (Metro or BHC III), one leaves his movies muttering, “That’s two hours of my life I’m never getting back.” Viewers of the moderately amusing Holy Man won’t begrudge Murphy the time spent watching his latest movie, but neither should anyone cancel plans to defrost the refrigerator just to catch this one.

Holy Man, directed by Stephen Herek (Mr. Holland’s Opus), is a comedy with spiritual pretensions. Murphy plays a caftan-wearing guru—of no specific faith—who spouts inspirational goop (“You need to find ultimate and complete happiness”) while gesturing at merchandise on a TV home-shopping channel. Sales skyrocket. If Murphy fails to achieve comic bliss here, it’s because Man keeps ditching him to satirize, with intermittent effectiveness, consumerism, and to follow the ho-hum career and romantic travails of TV execs Goldblum and Preston. (PG)

Bottom Line: Murphy is sporadically funny, but we’re not converted

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