THE GURU — * 1/2 — Jimi Mistry, Heather Graham, Marisa Tomei, Christine Baranski, Michael McKean, Dash Mihok; rated R (vulgarity, sex, profanity); see "Playing at local movie theaters" for complete listing of local theaters.
Some advice for your spiritual well-being: Avoid "The Guru."
What starts as a promising transplantation of India's Bollywood musical fantasy to America quickly devolves into a predictable, lame comedy of errors, secrets and lies.
Heather Graham and Jimi Mistry have minimal romantic chemistry as lovers in this well-intentioned but half-witted romance. They come across as a couple of mushy puppy dogs ill-suited to what's meant as a racy romp focusing on the porn industry, focusing on a supposed sage who preaches sexual openness as the key to self-awareness.
"The Guru" stars Mistry as Ramu Gupta, a dance teacher who leaves India in search of stardom in the United States. The movie's opening segment cleverly presents Ramu's boyhood captivation with American culture — the bored boy sneaks out of a campy Indian movie musical to rapturously watch John Travolta belt out a number in "Grease" in a nearby theater.
That's the highlight of "The Guru," which goes downhill from there as the grown-up Ramu takes residence with three fellow immigrants in a squalid apartment and works as a waiter in an Indian restaurant, whining that all he wants is his fair shot to make it big in America.
Looking for an acting break, Ramu lands the lead in an X-rated flick opposite perky porn star Sharrona (Graham), who offers blathering new-age sexual advice. When his porn career is derailed, Ramu stumbles into a gig replacing a drunken swami hired by a socialite (Christine Baranski) to entertain guests at a birthday bash for her dopey daughter, Lexi (Marisa Tomei). On the spot to deliver spiritual wisdom, Ramu parrots Sharrona's new age babble, which wows the crowd and launches him on a career as Manhattan's hottest new guru.
There's never a doubt as to where "The Guru" is headed. And despite the odd decent moment, including a funny walk-on by Rob Morrow as a cheery agent, the path traveled by "The Guru" is anything but enlightening.
"The Guru" is rated R for strong sexual content, including dialogue and language. Running time: 94 minutes.