Heard the one about the genie, the guru, and the alien invaders? Judge Paul Pritchard has, and didn't find it very funny.
Our review of Holy Man, published June 15th, 1999, is also available.
"Grab my belly and make a wish!"
Three movies. Two discs. Not one reason to buy this set.
Kazaam was an attempt by cynical Hollywood execs to sell basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal as a legitimate movie star. Sadly, as is immediately evident, nothing about this fantasy flick plays to Shaq's strengths.
When a schoolboy named Max (Francis Capra) awakens a 5,000-year-old genie (Shaquille O'Neal) who has been residing in a boom box (for those under the age of thirty: imagine an MP3 player twice the size of an Xbox that plays cassette tapes), he is granted three wishes. For Max, this couldn't have come at a better time, as he isn't having such a great time at home. Max learns that his mom is to marry her boyfriend, causing Max to search out his real father—whom he has never met. While looking for his father, Max again encounter the genie Kazaam, who once again informs Max that he has three wishes that he must use.
When he finally locates his father, Max is distraught to learn that he is a criminal dealing in pirated CDs. Feeling alone, what with his mother's upcoming marriage, Max finds himself turning to Kazaam for support. However, an unscrupulous nightclub owner with designs on Max's father's business learns about Kazaam and sets his sights on putting Max out of the picture permanently to get the three wishes for himself.
Surely Kazaam can't have been written with Shaq in mind? Whereas other Shaq vehicles from the same period (most notably the turgid superhero flick Steel and the poor Street Fighter 2 clone Shaq Fu) at least made sense, there can't have been anyone who thought the idea of Shaq as a genie would pack audiences into their local multiplex or further his standing as an actor. As it stands, Kazaam is a poorly conceived, overly commercialized dud.
Shaq's performance, which I'll go easy on due to his intimidating size, lacks the nuance required to successfully portray the wisecracking, though goodhearted Kazaam. To go back to my original point, Shaq isn't really suited to this kind of material, and truly only looks natural here when he takes down a room full of bad guys. Francis Capra, who thankfully went on to better work in his later career, isn't the most endearing kid to appear on screen, and pretty much whines his way through the entire picture. Still, he fares better than Marshall Manesh, who plays token villain Malik, a role apparently written on the back of a postage stamp.
If Kazaam has one distinction, it is that it stands out as the worst movie in this set by far, and considering the company it is keeping, that is some achievement.
The DVD presentation is better than the film, but not by much. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer appears a touch murky, with colors lacking the vibrancy one would hope for from a children's fantasy. The stereo soundtrack is flat, but delivers clear dialogue, which unfortunately means Shaq's raps are all too audible. No extras are included for Kazaam; not even an apology.
Few actors have a portfolio as diverse or ranging in quality as Eddie Murphy. From box office goldmine in the eighties to a pariah throughout the nineties, Murphy's career has had more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Holy Man, released in 1998, perfectly illustrates Murphy's career. Following the box office success of Dr. Dolittle, Murphy's stock plummeted once again with this poorly conceived comedy that wants to say something about materialism, but doesn't seem sure exactly how to put it.
Ricky Hayman (Jeff Goldblum, The Fly) is a senior executive for the Good Buy home shopping network, who is in need of a miracle to reverse the station's dwindling viewing figures. While out driving with fellow executive Kate Newell (Kelly Preston, Nothing to Lose), Ricky encounters G (Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop), a mysterious guru who inexplicably begins to follow Ricky wherever he goes. Most unexpectedly, G follows Ricky to the Good Buy studio and wanders onto the live set. Despite his preaching of the wrongs of materialism, G's appearance boosts the networks ratings dramatically.
With the network (not to mention his job) saved, Ricky refuses to settle. Despite a burgeoning romance with Kate, begins to exploit G's growing celebrity. As his greed increases, Ricky begins alienating those closest to him.
Holy Man isn't a complete disaster. It contains decent production values and looks slick enough. Unfortunately it lacks a soul, not to mention a focused narrative. Supposedly Holy Man is a comedy, yet despite my best efforts I failed to find a single laugh to be found anywhere throughout the film's overlong running time. Poor editing, and a smug, condescending attitude? Yep, those are nice and easy to find, but comedy? I'm afraid not.
Murphy is coasting here, and lacks the spark of Beverly Hills Cop or even his vocal work as Donkey in the Shrek franchise. Sadly, and as someone who grew up in the eighties loving Murphy, there are few things more irritating as subpar Murphy, as it inevitably means we must suffer his "my excrement don't stink" grin. All that said: In his defense, Murphy is not helped by the writing, which fails to build on G's mysterious appearance. It's beguiling how director Stephen Herek, who deserved much better, having given the world Critters and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, was able to assemble what is in truth a solid cast for this undercooked turd. Jeff Goldblum, still hot from the double whammy of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Independence Day surely didn't need the work this badly, while Kelly Preston goes someway to lose the goodwill earned from her turn in the previous year's Jerry Maguire. Even the supporting cast, which includes Robert Loggia (Big) and Betty White (The Golden Girls), is far better than this film deserves. Perhaps this is an example of several actors paying their dues collectively?
The DVD presentation is solid. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer contains strong colors, while detail levels are good. The 5.1 soundtrack won't win any prizes, but never falters in delivering clear dialogue. No extras are included for this film, but be honest: Would you really want any?
In Spaced Invaders, five misguided, knuckleheaded Martians head to Earth when they mistake a radio broadcast of War of the Worlds they pick up to be news of a real-life invasion. Arriving on Halloween in the sleepy Midwestern town of Big Bean, these would be invaders are mistaken for trick-or-treaters, much to their chagrin. Undeterred by the townsfolk's unwillingness to accept the truth and mortified that they are the only Martians apparently invading the planet, the group presses on with their plan, but find resistance in the form of a down-on-his-luck farmer and a pair of plucky youngsters.
For reasons that are totally inexplicable now, I had relatively high hopes for Spaced Invaders. I'll admit I wasn't expecting high art, but surely this quirky alien invasion movie would at least offer up undemanding fun, kinda like a kiddies' version of Killer Klowns From Outer Space? How wrong I was.
Originally released back in 1990, Spaced Invaders does little to distinguish itself from the direct-to-video kids' films that were so prevalent back in the late eighties/early nineties. With low production values, highlighted by the Martian costumes that struggle to move their lips and are likely to give more sensitive kids nightmares, this is a film that seems to be making it up as it goes along. The plot literally jumps from one predicament to the next, making zero sense as it does so. While it's true that the film rarely stands still, nothing interesting ever happens, and the 97-minute runtime soon becomes torturous. Sure, less demanding children may lap it up, but Spaced Invaders will likely hold little appeal to kids who appreciate a little substance to their entertainment.
The cast, headed by Douglas Barr (best known for playing Howie Munson on The Fall Guy) and Royal Dano (Something Wicked This Way Comes), are not idiots, and know full well how much this movie stinks. Bless them, though, they stick with it and aren't scared to make fools of themselves in the process. A very young Ariana Richards (Jurassic Park) is given the role of Kathy, and delivers a performance a cut above most actors of her age. The rest of the cast, with the exception of another child actor, J.J. Anderson—who may very well be the single best reason to watch the film as he wisecracks his way through the movie in a duck costume—are here to pay the bills and nothing more. Hey, I'm a workingman, too. I can relate.
The film is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The picture isn't as sharp as one would like, and frequently suffers from a little softness. This is never too distracting and, considering the price of this set, hardly a deal breaker. The soundtrack is flat, offering little range. Dialogue remains clear at all times, however. No extras, subtitles, or additional content are included for Spaced Invaders. To be fair, the film hardly warrants any.
The question posed by this set is where three duff movies can ever be considered value for money, even when bundled together at a low, low price. Had one of these films had some redeeming feature, then maybe it would be worth picking this set up, but the sad fact is that these movies suck, and buying this set is akin to paying for a punch in the face.
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