Max. Menno Meyjes. Opens Friday, February 28, at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema. Reviewed this issue.
The Guru. If there were a Taco Bell equivalent for Indian cuisine, it might be the perfect accompaniment to this movie, which throws together a lot of potentially flavorful elements into a bland formula, perfect as a nonthreatening date movie but not much else. It's part Indian-immigrant culture-clash comedy, part New Age satire (à la Eddie Murphy's Holy Man), part porn comedy (better when it was called Orgazmo) and part Bollywood musical (the most interesting element, but the filmmakers don't go far enough with it). The movie's central joke is that an "ethnic"-looking Indian immigrant (East Is East's Jimi Mistry) can make anything sound like profundity, even the banalities spewed by an empty-headed porn star (Heather Graham, seemingly born to play one). The porn star, of course, has a heart of gold, and our naïve immigrant falls for her while secretly turning her "acting lessons" into simplistic guru-speak for the spoiled rich masses, though of course he will start to realize that success isn't everything. It's a lesson that should comfort the filmmakers. Opens Friday, February 28, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Luke Y. Thompson)
The Scoundrel's Wife. Glen Pitre. A surprisingly well-cast period piece from writer/director Glen Pitre (Belizaire the Cajun), with the timely message that we shouldn't scapegoat foreigners simply because we hate (and intend to bomb) their governments. Set in Louisiana in the months after Pearl Harbor, it's the story of a widow (Tatum O'Neal) with a deep, dark secret. This is no ordinary, predictable secret, however: She's trying to get over the fact that she once stuffed illegal Chinese immigrants into wooden barrels and threw them into the sea! In the meantime, paranoia mounts as evidence indicates that the new German doctor in town (Julian Sands) may be a Nazi spy. Naturally Tatum falls for him. You'd think a movie like this might aim for a broad family audience, but Pitre gives us flashes of nudity from O'Neal and onscreen daughter Lacey Chabert, as well as some graphic violence meant to shock. Melodramatic stuff, this, but reasonably compelling. Tim Curry is put to good use as the local drunken priest. Premieres in St. Louis on Friday, February 28, at multiple locations. (Luke Y. Thompson)
Singin' in the Rain. Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen. One of the best Hollywood musicals ever, Singin' traces the cinema's transition from silence to speech. Matinee idol (Kelly) and his partner (Donald O'Connor) search for a voice for a shrill co-star. Also stars Debbie Reynolds. The digitally restored film opens for a one-week run on Friday, February 28, at the Tivoli. NR