Cast & Crew info:
Produced by Tim
Bevan, Liza Chasin, David Crockett, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward,
Shekhar Kapur and Michael London; Directed by Daisy
von Scherler Mayer; Screenwritten by Tracey Jackson
Comedy (US); Rated
R for strong sexual content including dialogue, and for
language; Running Time - 94 Minutes
Domestic Release Dates:
February 14, 2003
by DAVID KEYES
funniest moment in "The Guru" comes just a hair
before the closing credits begin to roll, when a fireman
rushes over to a nearby church, interrupts a wedding, and
professes his undying love for the groom. The comical timing
of this particular moment is so spot-on and alive, it's
a wonder that it even exists at all in a film that is almost
completely devoid of any sense of laughter. For a good long
hour, the movie continuously holds the impulse of delivering
its jokes in an uncomfortable and unamusing way, when suddenly
a gag like this erupts from out of nowhere. A bit shocking,
of course, but it saves this incredibly bad endeavor from
falling into that ever-so-dreaded "zero star"
club, if only just barely. Don't make too much fuss about
it, but know that there is, at least, a shred light at the
end of this long and dark tunnel of amateurism. As for the
movie itselfit's complete trash, a clunky, idiotic,
laughless and amateurish collection of scenes targeted to
people who have the intellect of mattress springs. Standard
defects of an idiot romance plot, including the notion that
any guy can get every woman in a room simply by pretending
to be someone else, garnish nearly every frame of celluloid,
but the picture only wishes it could maintain characters
with any level of low-end intelligence. Every face that
passes through the camera lens, in fact, is wasted; the
screen personas we have to endure aren't just clueless morons,
but dissonant ones as well. At least most idiots in these
kinds of plots pop a few brain cells every now and then.
star of this relentless nightmare is Jimi Mistry, a relatively
new actor who may be headed down a road that most actors
probably would rather avoid in attempt to jump-start a film
career. He plays Ramu Gupta, a native of India who teaches
old women to do the Macarena and fantasizes about seeing
a dubbed version of "Grease" when he was a kid.
Towards the open of the movie, Ramu packs up his things,
says good-bye to loved ones, and heads for the United States
with the dream of becoming wealthy. Luckily, friends are
there to welcome him to the "land of opportunity,"
but much to his dismay, they quickly stress the prospect
that success is not so easily achieved by people of their
ethnicity (what jobs beyond a waiter and a cab driver can
their be for Indian men in the big city?) Ramu's response
to that harsh reality: "I don't want it to be easyI
just want a chance."
to say, he gets the opportunity in a rather offbeat way.
While he and his friends are catering a big birthday party
for the bratty but spiritually-enhanced Lexi (Marisa Tomei),
the night's primary guestan Indian gurucollapses
after taking in too much liquor. Ramu is quickly thrown
into the role before the guru's expected big entrance, but
what exactly does this simple Indian guy know about life
that a bunch of high society people would want to hear?
Nothing substantial, other than some advice given to him
earlier in the day by a porn star named Sharonna (Heather
Graham), with whom Ramu was ready to make an adult video
with. Surprisingly, the audience takes these creative metaphors
and speeches about the power of sex quite seriously, and
before he knows it, the guy is finding his way up the latter
of success under the guise of an authentic Indian guru.
What will Sharonna say, however, when she finds out that
all her well-guarded ideas are being flaunted around in
front of the public by the guy who got them from her?
key to any of this being funny is our ability to care, and
frankly, the material is about as interesting as piles of
road kill. Isolated scenes that feature any type of interaction
between Ramu and a woman lack any chemistry whatsoever,
while dialogue treads dangerously on the line separating
dumb from pathetic (an example of the insipid parley: "I'm
a cab driverI can get to Bombay in 15 minutes.").
Beyond the two central roles, furthermore, there really
doesn't even seem to be much of a point for the supporting
characters, other than to give the main ones a chance to
interact with someone considerably less interesting and
intelligent than themselves. Michael McKean's Dwain, for
example, is a scab in this film's realm of warped humanity,
while Tomei's Lexi is childish, annoying, loud and disruptive
without actually ever having dimension.
what of the jokes? Some of them are shocking, most of them
just plain annoying and unfunny. In the right frame of mind
or under the dictation of a decent script, there is no reason
to believe all of this couldn't at least spark a laugh or
two, though; throughout the entire 94-minute ordeal, we
even get things like a scene where Ramu's guru guise is
telling old people to unleash their sexual energies through
masturbation. Alas, it's all sideline primarily by a clichéd,
dimwitted and utterly stupid romance plot that builds to
a predictable close when Ramu has a personal epiphany outside
the Sally Jesse Raphael show studios right before he's scheduled
to appear on her talk show. Something tells me the joke
is on him, though; if he did his homework, he'd know that
Sally's show was canceled last season.
© 2003, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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