Mike Myers' new comedy The Love Guru actually has its basis in sadness. The comedian was devastated when his father passed away several years ago and, as a response, went on a spiritual quest. He discovered and responded to the work of Deepak Chopra, whose books about enlightenment proved to be a source of healing. After a five-year physical absence from the big screen (during which time he only voiced Shrek), Myers decided to use his newfound spiritual awakening as the basis for his big comeback picture.
This would be a lovely story were it not for the fact that The Love Guru is an embarrassingly horrid film that could potentially drive a nail into the coffin of Myers' career.
The star plays a guru named Pitka, who was raised in the Indian ashram run by Guru Tugginmypuddah (Ben Kingsley), who trained him in the ways of spiritual attainment. Now a best-selling author of self-help books, Pitka caters to a celebrity clientele. He gets a golden opportunity to increase his fame and fortune when he is hired by Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, to help her star player, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco). Roanoke's game has been off ever since he split with his wife Prudence (Meagen Good). Now that she's dating his rival, L.A. Kings goalie Jacques "Le Coq" Grande (Justin Timberlake), he's really unable to perform. Pitka realizes that he must help Roanoke heal his inner child in order to find his ice hockey mojo once again.
The Love Guru suffers from many problems, the first of which is that it draws its comedic inspiration from New Age mysticism (an over-used, easy target) and Bollywood musicals (an esoteric target for most of the American moviegoing population). It also has an annoying tendency to repeat its own jokes. The first time Pitka greets someone with his standard mantra of "Mariska Hargitay," it's funny, but he does it multiple times within the first 15 minutes. Same with whipping out one of his crazily titled self-help books at opportune moments. When a movie starts repeating itself that early in the game, it's a sure sign of desperation.
Then again, desperation is what this flick is all about. I've been a big fan of Mike Myers in the past. The Austin Powers and Wayne's World films were full of invention; they seemed to continually find clever variations on the whole smart-but-pretending-to-be-stupid style of humor. The Love Guru, on the other hand, is just stupid, without the smart. Myers, who co-wrote the screenplay with Graham Gordy, indulges in the most inane and ceaseless assemblage of genitalia jokes I've ever seen. No kidding - the movie runs only 90 minutes and yet there must be at least 100 penis jokes here. Every scene seems to end with one.
Just look at the names of the characters: an Indian guru named Tugginmypuddah? A legendarily well-endowed goalie named "Le Coq" Grande? Even the coach of the Maple Leafs (Verne Troyer) has a phallic name: Cherkov. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy lowbrow humor as much as the next guy, but did Myers write this script when he was eleven or what? The penis-related gags go on and on and on, in one form or another. Two guys fight each other using mops that have been dunked in urine. Pitka's chastity belt makes a strange sound like a bell whenever he is near the Jessica Alba character. The guru's advice to Roanoke comes in the form of acronyms that spell out things like "B.L.O.W.M.E." I got so overloaded on this type of material that eventually The Love Guru became oppressive to watch. It is almost like Myers gave up on trying to be satiric or smart or creative. Or perhaps he was so enchanted by his own desire to bring spiritualism to the masses that he forgot to actually bring the funny with it. Whatever the case, this is a shockingly laugh-free motion picture.
When a comedy is so unfunny, you start to notice things that, by all rights, should whiz right past you. I found myself catching inconsistencies, such as the fact that a running gag about Cherkov punching Pitka in the nuts makes no sense when we are repeatedly told that the guru is wearing a steel chastity belt. How would he feel the punch? We also learn that, as owner of a losing team, Jane is "hated" by all the men in Toronto and therefore can't find a mate. Right…so we're supposed to believe that, even in the most sports-obsessed city in the land, there's not one man who'd date Jessica Alba? Yeah, okay. Believe that and I have an ashram in the Florida Keys I'd like to sell you.
Mike Myers can be a brilliant comedian, but you'd never know it from this film. The fact is that Guru Pitka just is not a particularly funny creation, and no amount of effort can change that. The supporting cast doesn't fare much better. Once again, Alba has nothing to do but stand around and look hot; can't someone find her a part that allows her to show whether or not she can act? Even Justin Timberlake, who has shown some serious comedy chops hosting "Saturday Night Live," can't muster up any laughs with his over-the-top performance. The less said about Sir Ben Kingsley, the better. Let's just say that, as fine an actor as he is, comedy is not his forte. When your big inspiration is to play the role cross-eyed, you're actually better off going and working with Uwe Boll again.
It occurs to me that the last time Mike Myers appeared live on screen was in 2003's equally dismal The Cat in the Hat. If there is any consolation to be found in The Love Guru, it is this: after such a deplorable one-two punch, Myers will certainly hasten to work on a fourth Austin Powers film. Groovy, baby, yeah.
( out of four)
The Love Guru is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
To learn more about this film, check out AskMen.com: The Love Guru
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