Love Guru, The (United States, 2008)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Love Guru, The Poster

To some, Mike Myers is Wayne. To others, he is Austin Powers or the voice of Shrek. It's doubtful that he will be Guru Pitka to many. The Love Guru, Myers' latest film and his most recent live-action endeavor since The Cat in the Hat, is as unmemorable as the title character. Although the film can boast clusters of clever and/or amusing material, they are not sprinkled liberally enough to obscure how thin all other aspects of this production are. The Love Guru is a skit that starts out promising but loses momentum as it goes on and on and on… Occasional bursts of comedy keep things from becoming unbearable but whenever Myers tries to get even a little serious or advance the "plot," the desire to take a nap becomes almost overpowering.

Guru Pitka (Myers) is known variously as "The Love Guru" and the "Second-Most Famous Guru after Deepak Chopra." His ashram is visited by"notables" like Jessica Simpson, Val Kilmer, and Mariska Hargitay (there's a fairly amusing joke there). However, he chafes at playing second fiddle on the world's stage to Chopra, with whom he studied as a child under the tutelage of Guru Tugginmypudha (Ben Kingsley). The Promised Land for Pitka is a guest spot on Oprah. His services are sought by the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), when her star player, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), is unable to get the job done on the doorstep of the Stanley Cup Finals. Without Darren, the Maple Leafs have no chance, and he is unable to get over losing his girlfriend, Prudence (Meagan Good) to the L.A. Kings' goaltender, Jacques 'Le Coq' Grande (Justin Timberlake). Guru Pitka's assignment, which comes with a $2 million paycheck and the sought-after appearance on Oprah, is to reunite Darren and Prudence.

On a broad level, The Love Guru is as much a satire of Eastern-based self-help philosophies as Austin Powers was of spy movies. The movie is at its best during a seminar given by Guru Pitka during the early going. Using silly and sometimes profane acronyms (B.L.O.W.M.E.), the guru preaches a lifestyle perspective that distills to one simple premise: D.R.A.M.A. During this lecture, Myers gets in his jabs early and often and, had the rest of the movie continued on this level, The Love Guru might have been Myers' most successful comedy to-date. Unfortunately, it devolves into little more than a series of bodily fluid-themed gags and sex jokes. We learn, for example, why Tugginmypudha is cross-eyed, why Jacques is nicknamed 'Le Coq', and what happens when Pitka's chastity belt is put to the test. The problem isn't that this material is sophomoric, but that it's sophomoric and frequently unfunny. When was the last time an elementary school graduate laughed at a man making "diarrhea noises" for about 30 seconds?

Myers has fashioned a career out of hiding behind inventive caricatures with faces and accents not entirely his own. They're easy enough to list: Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard, Shrek, The Cat in the Hat. Guru Pitka, with his long beard and flowing locks, is another such entity. Hindu groups are protesting the movie, but Myers isn't mocking the religion as much as the commercial offshoots that have rooted in pop culture over the past few years. The movie never addresses or lampoons issues of spirituality. Pitka's goal in life is to achieve self-love. (Only then can he have sex with Jessica Alba.) His is a secular mantra. The closest The Love Guru comes to commenting on Indian culture is when it parodies cheesy Bollywood musical numbers. Myers gets in more jabs at Canada than India. (He is, of course, Canadian.) The participation of Vern Troyer (playing the Maple Leafs' coach, not Mini-Me) allows Myers to unleash a barrage of dwarf-related jokes, many of which are of questionable taste and a few of which are very funny.

I wanted to like The Love Guru more than I did. The frustrating thing about the movie is that it contains moment of comedy that verge on inspired, but they are too infrequent to justify the running length. For the most part, the film meanders, trying to get us to care about paper-thin characters like Roanoke, Prudence, and Jane. With Austin Powers, Myers went after a subject that everyone recognized as being ripe for satire. While his subject material in The Love Guru is no less easily lampooned, the parody has less universal resonance. That, more than anything else, may be what limits interest in this movie. The nature of this comedy isn't that different from that of the popular Austin Powers series, but the material isn't as accessible.

Love Guru, The (United States, 2008)

Director: Marco Schnabel
Cast: Mike Myers, Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, Romany Malco, Meagan Good, Vern Troyer, Ben Kingsley
Screenplay: Mike Myers & Graham Gordy
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Music: George S. Clinton
U.S. Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Run Time: 1:29
U.S. Release Date: 2008-06-20
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Situations, Profanity, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1