The Love Guru
Director : Marco Schnabel
Screenplay : Mike Myers & Graham Gordy
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2008
Stars : Mike Myers (Guru Pitka), Jessica Alba (Jane Bullard), Justin Timberlake (Jacques Grande), Romany Malco (Darren Roanoke), Verne Troyer (Coach Punch Cherkov), Meagan Good (Prudence Roanoke), Manu Narayan (Rajneesh), John Oliver (Dick Pants), Stephen Colbert (Jay Kell), Jim Gaffigan (Trent Lueders), Ben Kingsley (Guru Tugginmypudha)
Aside from voicing the grumpy green ogre in a certain series of computer-animated hit films, Mike Myers has been absent from the big screen since his critically reviled live-action turn as Dr. Seuss’ iconic Cat in the Hat back in 2003. While time off can be good for refreshing and recharging one’s creativity, in comedy it can also lead to falling out of touch, falling back on recycled old material, or both, which is as good a description as any of The Love Guru, which might have made for a decent 8-minute Saturday Night Live sketch but becomes close to unwatchable as a feature-length film. Myers recycles much of his physical shtick from previous roles, and the movie’s sometimes bizarre datedness can be seen in everything from its musical parody of Extreme’s “More Than Words” (Hello, 1991!) to a major character’s obsession with Celine Dion (who apparently couldn’t be bothered to make an actual cameo).
As an actor and comedian with a notorious penchant for perfectionism, Myers excels at playing characters in the broadest sense. Any time he tries to convey normality, he flops, which is why he has spent his career hiding inside an array of kooky caricatures, all of whom share the common trait of excess. At his best, Myers can nail dead-on cultural parody that also flirts with almost Dadaist nonsensicality (witness the various verbal digressions in Dr. Evil’s misguided meetings with his motley crew of evildoers); at his worst, he staggers into a kind of self-indulgent nonsense that reminds one of a class clown who is the only kid in the room not realizing the joke has gone stale. While most of his films (especially the latter two Austin Powers outings) tend to mix these two tendencies, The Love Guru wallows fatally in the latter.
Myers’ new character is the Guru Pitka. The son of missionary parents, he grew up in India, trained as a spiritual leader, and is now the second most famous guru in the world just behind Deepak Chopra. With his long pointy beard, curly-cue moustache, and flowing robes, Pitka is a visual parody of eccentric New Age-y spiritual nonsense, even though Myers wants us to ultimately accept the movie’s message about the power of self-love and acceptance. Of course, coming from someone with a silly accent whose entire ethos is built around devising ridiculous acronyms for his pointedly obvious self-help strategies, it’s hard to take any of it seriously--which would be fine if it were funny, but it’s not. (It would also help if the film were actually a parody of New Age self-help, but Myers’ friendship with Chopra, who makes a cameo, has ensured that it’s all in dull, nonthreatening, good fun.)
Pitka is brought to Toronto by Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), the heiress-owner of a professional hockey team whose star player, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), has lost his edge ever since breaking up with his wife, Prudence (Meagan Good). To add insult to injury, Prudence has taken up with Jacques “Le Coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake), the sleazy French-Canadian goalie for a rival team whose greatest asset is the size of his equipment (not the kind he uses while playing hockey). If Pitka is able to get Darren and Prudence back together, he will be given a guest spot on Oprah, which is sure to send his stock skyrocketing and allow him to overtake Chopra as the world’s most renowned New Age icon. Along the way we get an assortment of odd supporting characters, including Verne Troyer as an anger-prone hockey coach who develops a particularly antagonistic relationship with Pitka, Stephen Colbert slumming it as a drug-addled sports announcer, and the venerable Ben Kingsley as the cross-eyed guru who instructs Pitka in the ways of guru-ing.
Like the Austin Powers movies, The Love Guru is a prime example of Myers’ unique brand of comedy, which Jerry Seinfeld nailed when he described it as Myers’ breaking the rules of American parody by parodying things that Americans know nothing about, hence his fascination with libidinal British secret agents, preening German show hosts, and all things Scottish. Daring, yes. When it works, great. But in The Love Guru Myers (who might as well be credited as the director given that the film’s credited director, first-timer Marco Schnabel, was clearly picked because he didn’t have any power to challenge Myers’ authorship) consistently misses the mark by indulging in an inanely repetitive onslaught of penis jokes--verbal, visual, even aural--that quickly wear out their welcome. Myers has always had an affinity for body humor, even when it doesn’t work, and The Love Guru seems above all to be an answer to a question nobody has ever wanted to ask: Exactly how many dick jokes can you stuff into a mere 88 minutes? The answer: Way too many.
Copyright ©2008 James Kendrick
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