(SCREENED AT THE 2003 PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.) A fluffy, unpretentious comedy from Universal, THE GURU is apparently having trouble getting a U.S. release, but it’s better than a lot of similar movies that have cluttered up our theatres. I can’t make big claims for this movie, but it gave me some good laughs. You can’t expect much more than that from a flick about an immigrant from India who becomes a celebrity “sex guru.”Our hero from India, a dance instructor who prefers Grease over Bollywood, arrives in America to make it big, only to end up doing menial jobs--even porno. (“You know why they call it the American Dream?” he’s told. “Because it only happens when you are asleep.”) In a twist rather strongly reminiscent of Being There, he accidentally achieves fame and fortune when the idle rich of New York mistake his fatuous pronouncements on “spiritual sex” for the ancient wisdom of the Near East. They don’t realize that he’s merely parroting the advice of a porn star (Heather Graham, cute and charming as always) he’s trying to court.
THE GURU plays like an overextended sitcom, replete with TV-style one-liners. But it’s funny. Screenwriter Tracey Jackson squeezes a lot of juice out of the West’s fascination with flaky New Age beliefs, and the sex jokes are better than usual. You have to put up with cliché plotting aplenty, especially toward the end—this is the 10,000th comedy to climax with a let’s-crash-the-wedding scene—but it’s all done in good spirit. It’s a painless movie, at least.What can I say—it put a smile on my face. And I'm one grumpy son of a gun.