The Guru (Rental) (2002)

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Rental Version Only
Available for Rent

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
dts Trailer-Piano
Trailer-Ned Kelly; Johnny English
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 90:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:09) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Daisy Von Scherler Mayer
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jimi Mistri
Heather Graham
Marisa Tomei
Case ?
RPI Rental Music David Carbonara


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Mercedes - red
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It can often be a bad sign for a movie when the first billed stars only appear in small roles. This is not quite the case with The Guru, but it is close. Jimi Mistry, who plays the lead character of Ramu Gupta, only comes third in the credits behind Heather Graham and Marisa Tomei. While the two women certainly have large roles, this is Mistry's movie, and he should have been afforded top billing. But that is the way movies work - no-one outside the UK has heard of Mistry while Graham and Tomei are stars in their own right.

    So what is The Guru? Well, for starters, it was a movie that made an enormous splash at the UK box-office in the middle of last year, but only managed a (limited) US release early this year (2003). Does that mean this is a film that will only be understood by veteran Anglophiles? Well, no, but those expecting another Bend It Like Beckham will be sorely disappointed. About the only link is the inclusion of Indian culture in the subject matter - and it is a tenuous one at that. For starters, The Guru is set in America, and aside from Mistry and a number of other Indians (both British and American), stars a large American cast. Secondly, the subject matter is considerably racier.

    Racier? Well, after all, we are talking about the "Guru of Sex". The story follows Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry) who leaves his family (and dance class) in India to travel to America in the hopes of becoming a star and making a motza, just like his friend Vijay (Emil Marwa). Unfortunately, when Vijay's red Mercedes turns out to be a Taxi, and the penthouse a 2nd story dump above a shop, shared with two others, Ramu finds himself waiting tables to pay the bills. An accidental casting as an exotic "adult movie" star, some words of advice from co-star Sharonna (Heather Graham), and the timely death of a Swami for hire leads to Ramu meeting the spiritually inconsistent Lexi (Marisa Tomei). Acting as his agent, Lexi sets about promoting her new Guru of Sex to everyone she knows, and Ramu's new career is born. The only small problem is that all his advice actually comes from Sharonna - and if her fiancée ever found out she was a porn star, the wedding would be off.

    If that plot synopsis sounded rather contrived, then that is because it is. Any movie that has Heather Graham gyrating atop a guy while singing Billy Joel's Just The Way You Are in a supposed effort to teach him how to be more comfortable with himself is not exactly rooted in reality. And if it is, then I sure took the wrong classes in school! This is even more obvious when the big song and dance numbers kick in. Right in the middle of a seemingly ordinary birthday party, the entire party crowd is suddenly singing and dancing, and turning in a performance that would not have been out of place in a fifties musical. Maybe that was the point, but the end result - while good fun, and spectacular to watch - just doesn't fit in, and ends up feeling a little uncomfortable.

    For all the problems with the script, it is still at least fun, and the performances are very helpful in this regard. Mistry plays Ramu straight, and in an over-earnest manner, while Heather Graham is her usual self, and Marisa Tomei does an acceptable job as the flitty Lexi. Overall however, it is really Mistry who is the saviour, acting as an anchor for all the other ridiculous circumstances.

    In the end, The Guru will never be a classic - the script does not tie together the disparate styles of the movie well enough, and the direction is a little murky at times, but The Guru is still a good hour and a half of entertainment that will easily liven up a dreary winter's day.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer afforded The Guru is quite good. It may not be at the top of the pile for transfers, but it still won't disappoint.

    Presented at the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp, although at times it does leave a little to be desired. There is little in the way of visible grain, and it rarely gets out of control. The only really badly grainy sequence occurs between 6:05 and 6:23. Shadow detail is very good, displaying more than enough information to easily view darkly lit scenes, and shows fine contrast in the shades of grey. There is no low level noise.

    Colour is very good, with vibrant reds and yellows where necessary, being equally well met by deep blacks and blues.

    There are no compression artefacts present in this transfer. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for aliasing, as it is quite frequent, and quite obvious, from the bridge at 4:43 to the stairs at 50:34, and even the trim of the car at 73:40. Film artefacts are relatively infrequent, but they do occur (such as at 2:30 and 51:52) which is a little disappointing for such a recent film.

    The subtitles are not particularly accurate, although they generally do not affect the humour. They are well paced, and easy to read.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 53:09 during Chapter 12. It is not particularly well placed, coming mid-scene, although it occurs when there is almost no audio so it doesn't stand out as much as it could have.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The quality of the audio on this disc is reasonable aside from a major audio sync problem with the DTS soundtrack. Fortunately, aside from the sync issues, there is essentially no difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks, so it does not harm the disc too much.

    There are two audio tracks on this disc, both being the original English dialogue, available in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384 Kbps), and DTS 5.1 (at half-bitrate).

    Dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand at all times. The very musical nature of the soundtrack allows the solid nature of the soundtrack to come through. While it may not be the next DVD demo disc, it is certainly more than pleasing.

    The major problem with the audio quality of this disc, as mentioned above, is audio sync. The Dolby Digital soundtrack is generally not affected, with only a few words at around 57:20 slipping out. The DTS track is another matter entirely. The whole film is out of sync to at least a small extent, and at some points even more. This is an unacceptable state for a product, as it is clearly defective, and should never have been released. The fact that the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is acceptable does not excuse the state of the DTS track - if it could not have been made to sync properly, it should have been dropped entirely.

    The score is credited to David Carbonara, but it is not for background music that this movie will be remembered, it is the large song and dance numbers that attract the most attention. While the score itself is quite subtle and does its job well, the music for the fantasy sequences is a blast, and really helps to make the movie. In addition to the score there are some more recognisable tunes, and these are generally worked well into the movie and do not distract from it.

    Surround activity is, not surprisingly, on the low side. Some of the music gets a fair representation from the rear speakers, but other than that, they largely lie dormant.

    The subwoofer, on the other hand, is used quite effectively to support the score and comes off sounding very natural and quite impressive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    As we have come to expect from Universal rental releases, there is not much in the way of extras here.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, animated, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Theatrical Trailer - Ned Kelly (0:55)

    Presented at 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this is a trailer for the much-hyped Ned Kelly. While an effective trailer, it paints the film as a heroic epic instead of the tragedy it is.

Theatrical Trailer - Johnny English (1:19)

    Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this trailer tells us that Rowan Atkinson's new project should be about as serious as a clown at a 5th birthday party. The real test will be to see if it is any funnier.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This movie does not yet appear to be available in the US, however a fully-fledged sell through version is available on Region 2 DVD in the UK. This region comparison will compare those versions.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The UK Region 2 version of this disc misses out on;     I think that it is safe to say the UK Region 2 version of this disc is vastly superior. Hopefully when we in Region 4 see the sell-though version in a few months time, the differences will be addressed.

Summary

    The Guru is a fun movie that is probably a little too UK/Indian centric to succeed outside of those territories in a major way. Regardless, it is still a fun way to spend 90 minutes, and worth a watch.

    The video quality is very good, showing plenty of detail and not too much grain.

    The audio quality - generally - is good, aside from a lack of surround use. Unfortunately, the fact that the DTS track is at least slightly out of sync for most of its length makes it virtually useless, and a literal waste of space.

    The minimalist extras point to the rental nature of this disc, and will hopefully be bolstered come the sell-through release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Martin F (read my bio)
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Angela A
The DVD Bits - Allan H

Comments (Add)
Audio sync probs with DTS? - Rodda (This... is my *bioom* stick!)
Retail Version- when? - catindahat
Wot sync problems? - Dave