Lisa Schwarzbaum
January 29, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Guru

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
95 minutes
Limited Release Date
01/31/03
performer
Heather Graham, Jimi Mistry, Marisa Tomei, Christine Baranski, Dwight Ewell, Michael McKean, Rob Morrow
director
Daisy von Scherler Mayer
distributor
Universal
author
Tracey Jackson
genre
Comedy

We gave it an B+

Bright dialogue and finely embroidered performances adorn The Guru like festive beading on a pair of made-in-India bedroom slippers — unexpected and inordinately cheering in the drab dead of winter. This very funny studio picture plays like an indie lark, a blending of venerable (and currently trendy) Bollywood musical conventions, Hollywood romantic-comedy formula, satiric ”Guffman”-esque riffs, and droll parody at the expense of the enduring American porn-flick industry.

Inspired by vibrant New York City locations and Tracey Jackson’s smart script, director Daisy von Scherler Mayer (”Party Girl”) pulls off the caper — plus a group rendition of Billy Joel’s ”Just the Way You Are” — when one jiggle of the head too many could have collapsed the whole blithe production into an extended Apu-based episode of ”The Simpsons.” As an Indian smoothie who prefers ”Grease” subtitled in Hindi to the extravagant native cinematic epics favored by his countrymen, Ramu (likable Jimi Mistry) moves to America in search of stardom, naively answers an X-rated casting call, and falls for a wise porn starlet with family values (played with a dash of curry by Heather Graham, skewering her ”Boogie Nights” success).

Meanwhile, the chap accidentally finds fame among jaded city sophisticates as a sex guru — a savant to unseat Deepak Chopra. The sight of the pseudo-swami teaching the macarena as a tantric workout and opening up the chakras of Christine Baranski and Marisa Tomei as sublimely shallow mother-and-daughter socialites is a vision of comedy karma at its most chameleon.

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