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The Love Guru
It’s Austin Powers… In a Beard
by Mel Valentin on Jun 20, 2008
Directed by Marco Schnabel and written by Mike Myers (the Austin Powers franchise, Shrek, Wayne’s World I and II) and Graham Gordy, The Love Guru, Myers’ latest comedy/parody, this time centered on an American-born, Indian-raised self-help guru hoping to become the next Deepak Chopra is, contrary to expectations, sporadically amusing, often gross, and an occasionally entertaining effort by Meyers and his collaborators. The Love Guru also skirts uncomfortably close to using one too many stereotypes about Indian culture. Luckily for Myers and, more importantly for us, Myers is smart enough to stay on the right side of offensiveness (and, unsurprisingly, the wrong side of vulgarity).
Myers introduces his latest comic creation, Guru Pitka, a self-help guru with a large stack of bestsellers to his name and an oversized, opulently furnished ashram in Los Angeles, via voiceover narration. It’s a clever riff on Morgan Freeman’s penchant for voiceover gigs that uses, you guessed it, the one and only Morgan Freeman as part of the joke. Unfortunately, that kind of cleverness quickly gives way to long series of jokes and gags involving bodily fluids, appendages, animal sex, and feces.
Despite spending most of his adult life helping others navigate the rough waters of romance, Guru Pitka hasn’t experienced romantic love, due to the imprecations of his own spiritual guide and mentor, the cross-eyed Guru Tugginmypudha (Ben Kingsley), who admonishes Pitka that he must learn to love himself before he can love someone else (well, a chastity belt helps).
Guru Pitka’s manager, Dick Pants (John Oliver), shows up with the perfect opportunity to one-up his longtime rival, Deepak Chopra (yes, the real Deepak Chopra makes a cameo), when the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and fan of Pitka’s self-help books, Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), asks for his help in getting the Leafs’ star player, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), the “Tiger Woods of ice hockey", back on his game as the Leafs head into the Stanley Cup Finals against the L.A. Kings. Apparently, Roanoke can’t get over his separation from his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Prudence (Meagan Good), who not coincidentally has settled into a romantic relationship with the Kings’ over-endowed star goalie, Jacques “Le coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake). The more time Guru Pitka and Bullard spend together, the more a romance seems likely.
Myers and first-time helmer Marco Schnabel structured The Love Guru less like a romantic comedy and more like a sports comedy with the Maple Leafs march through the finals as counterpoint to Guru Pitka’s efforts to help Roanoke recover his shooting touch while Guru Pitka learns a few life lessons of his own (e.g., the importance of romantic love over money or fame). Although the last third of The Love Guru feels like a an entirely different film, Myers never cuts back on the physical or verbal humor. Some of the humor works and works well (e.g., spoof of Bollywood musicals), but more than half of it doesn’t work (e.g., juvenile gross-out gags). No surprise there, of course, at least not for anyone even tangentially familiar with Myers’ previous appearances onscreen.
Myers also packs The Love Guru with borderline-annoying cameos, ranging from Jessica Simpson, Kanye West, Myers (as himself), to Mariska Hargitay (her name becomes a running joke). Familiar faces from television, e.g., Stephen Colbert and John Oliver ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"), and Vern Troyer, aka Mini-Me from the Austin Powers franchise, playing the Leafs’ diminutive coach., also make an appearance. The jokes at Troyer’s expense, however, have grown stale and tiresome (they were always offensive, but once, long ago, they were funny at least ). Myers obviously wanted to turn Guru Pitka into the latest character he can turn into a lucrative franchise, but he might have been hoping for too much.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
by Mel Valentin on Jun 20, 2008