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The Guru

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Guru

Starring: Heather Graham, Jimi Mistry
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Rated: R
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: January 2003
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Marisa Tomei, Michael McKean, Ajay Naidu, Anita Gillette, Malachy McCourt, Dwight Ewell, Christine Baranski, Emil Marwa

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

The grass is always greener on the other side. This seems like one of the adages taught by Confucius or Lao-Tze, or maybe even one of the those Indian gurus former waiters, perhaps, who come over to the States to make their fortune by convincing us that the East has all the answers to the problems of the West. This may not be the philosophy held dear by President Bush but there are enough rich people in America who are about to become a lot richer thanks to the president's tax cut who are, despite everything, unhappy. If spending money on furs and diamonds does not bring a big smile, why not hand your money over to an exotic guy with a turban?

What inspires Ramu (Jimi Mistry), the titled guru of Universal's rollicking sex comedy, is not at first the astonishing wealth that some fortune-cookie dealers like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi accumulated by preying on the fashionably discontent. After all, his aim from the start is to leave his native Delhi and come over here to become a movie actor. (Why he chose to settle in New York rather than the left coast is another story, but there's enough of a story crammed into this plot to distract us from that and all other logical concerns.)

Daisy von Scherler Mayer opens Tracey Jackson's story on a young boy watching one of the interminable Bollywood productions, inhabiting the only seat in a theater of broadly smiling faces to be dismayed the lad's squirming. When he goes next door to watch a younger, slimmer John Travolta putting the hit on Olivia Newton John in "Grease," his look shows, "This is the picture for me." Years later, assured that his pal in New York drives a red Mercedes and lives in a penthouse, he takes leave of his family, boards Air India, and learns that the American Dream is, in the words of his friend, "called that because you get it only when you're sleeping." Winding up in a New York porn production directed by Dwain (Michael McKean who was off-the-wall hilarious in Christopher Guest's "Best in Show"), he is (so to speak) unable to work hard enough, is tutored by his would-be co-star Sharrona (Heather Graham), and steals the sexual secrets she reveals to put the sex in spirituality for New York's passion-challenged society people, particularly the trendy but unfocused Lexi (Marisa Tomei).

"The Guru" both plays homage to and sends up the terminally opulent movies churned out by Bombay, movies that seem as designed to take the average Indian out of his dreary, poverty- stricken world as the glitzy American Depression movies of the thirties served for us. More important, though, "The Guru" mocks not simply the trust that trendy Americans to this day put in so- called spiritualists from anywhere but the States but America's naively optimistic belief that somewhere Out There is The Answer to our unhappy condition whether that be found with psychotherapists, fortune tellers, astrologers, or trips to Vegas and Disneyland.

"The Guru" finds its genre not far from the more or less adolescent vulgar productions from the Farrelly Brothers' "There's Something About Mary," Paul Weitz's "American Pie," Todd Phillips' "Road Trip" and most recently director Phillips' "Old School." The obligatory nude scene finds all the members of Lexi's circle sitting down to dinner in the birthday suits, newly liberated and clothed only with expressions such as "God wants us to have sex." Like the aforementioned comedies, there's also something sweet about this picture, a Preston Sturges-like ode to the possibilities of human happiness if only we could overcome some hurdles that we set up within ourselves . A great many sitcomish lines that are dropped seem to cry out for a laugh track, but on the whole, the picture is opulent, British stage actor Jimi Mistry both touching and amusing as one of the blind leading the blind, and New York, though not as colorful as Delhi, gets to strut its stuff from Harlem to Chinatown to Queens and, most important, Brooklyn.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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