Title: The Love Guru
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Sport
Director: Marco Schnabel
Screenwriters: Mike Myers, Graham Gordy
Starring: Mike Myers, Jessica Alba, Romany Malco
Here I find myself in roughly the same position I was in when reviewing You Don’t Mess with the Zohan a couple of weeks ago, namely: I appreciate this sort of no-holds-barred juvenilia in principle, but wish the execution had been more inspired. I suppose that’s sort of an odd claim, since had Mike Myers’ comedy in The Love Guru been genuinely inspired, I probably wouldn’t characterize it as juvenile. But if inspiration is too much to ask, how about energy, momentum, or a healthy disregard for comedy convention? Myers offered all of these things in the similarly low-brow Austin Powers franchise, which gave us three goofy, entertaining romps before puttering into an uncertain oblivion. The Love Guru is less like a fourth Powers film than like a Fat Bastard spin-off.
Like most of Myers’ comedy, The Love Guru is based on a character that the comic created, with the plot coming later. But the Guru Pitka is less a character than a concept, and this turns out to be a large part of the main problem. For all the ultra-referential silliness of Austin Powers, Austin himself was a recognizable personality — you knew what he was about. If nothing else, it was clear that the filmmakers conceived of him as a human being. Pitka is obviously a parody of the Deepak Chopra school of populist, pseudo-spiritual “advisors”… and that’s about it. We get the vague sense that he’s after popularity and love (though the latter quest is hampered by a chastity belt he is forced to wear), but mostly he’s there to crack jokes. The notion of involving Pitka in a plot that requires us to see him as endearing or as having recognizable human emotions seems ridiculous.
Myers seemed to realize this, and so the requisite romantic subplot — between Pitka and the hot hockey team owner he’s hired to help (Jessica Alba) — is given short shrift. Most of the screen time is given over, instead, to Pitka’s exuberant goofball mugging, with occasional assists by a manic Justin Timberlake as a well-endowed French Canadian goalie named “Le Coq,” a sort of pathetic Ben Kingsley as Pitka’s cross-eyed mentor, Verne Troyer as a very short hockey coach, and a few others. Some sample jokes: Pitka teaches using a series of increasingly profane acronyms like B.L.O.W.M.E.; a montage of “censored” tabloid crotch shots of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, etc., culminates in a spread-eagled Mike Meyers; a crucial bit of psychological distraction is provided by two elephants fornicating inside a hockey rink.
Sometimes it’s funny. I was unreasonably amused, for example, by Pitka’s preference for “Mariska Hargatay” — the name of an actress on Law and Order who actually shows up in a brief cameo — as a mantra. And sometimes Pinka will dispense with the wordplay and innuendo and tell us what he’s thinking – when he meets Troyer’s undersized Coach Cherkov, for example, he offers him shrimp and mispronounces “name” as “gnome” before simply prounouncing, “you are a midget.” I laughed every time — it’s the sort of giddy subversion that the rest of the film mostly lacks.
The occasional bright spot aside, though, The Love Guru pretty much just sits there. Myers spends a lot of time indulging his love for preteen-level yuks: we get diarrhea noises, dick jokes, testicle-shaped snacks, though grossest of all might be a CGI rendering of Myers as a 13 year-old. The film is admirably persistent, hitting us with one gag in this vein after another, but it’s disappointing that the comedian prefers straightforward vulgarity to goofiness or real parody. At the end of the day, this sort of thing can only go so far.
The Love Guru isn’t actively unpleasant, but that’s about the best I can say for it. Pitka never registers as anything other than a joke machine, and the jokes just aren’t that funny. The film has no discernible rhythm, little in the way of wit, and the plot plays like Myers considered it an unpleasant obligation. I’d have preferred he dispense with it, frankly. At least that would have been an interesting choice.