The Love Guru (2008) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, some violence, and drug references
Running time: 87 min.
Cast: Mike Myers, Romany Malco, Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, Verne Troyer, Meagan Good, Ben Kingsley, Omid Djalili, Stephen Colbert, Jim Gaffigan, Telma Hopkins
Cameo: Jessica Simpson, Kanye West, Deepak Chopra, Rob Blake, Val Kilmer, Mariska Hargitay, Morgan Freeman (voice)
Director: Marco Schnabel
Screenplay: Mike Myers, Graham Gordy
Graham Gordy, who gets co-screenwriting credit, wrote two produced screenplays prior to his work on The Love Guru -- My Dog Skip and Little Marines -- both targeted toward younger viewers. Given the results here, it's easy to see why Mike Myers collaborated with him, as I can't think of any other movie that aims squarely for 10-year-olds than The Love Guru. Given how juvenile the last film to be written by Mike Myers had been, Austin Powers in Goldmember, I'm going to venture that Gordy had probably not been the driving force behind every crude choice of humor, every penis gag, every lewd remark, and every crusty old pun. Much like one of the main instructions given my Myers' titular guru himself, he continues to explore regression, mostly into things that we find funny the younger we are -- poo-poo, pee-pee, wee-wees, and chee-chees -- to the point where one can only wonder if his next film will be strictly written in baby babble.
The Love Guru revolves around an American-born self-help guru named Maurice Pitka, raised in an ashram in secluded India in the ways of the wise ones, whose specialty happens to be assisting the love-challenged with working out the problems blocking their chances at romantic bliss. His success in the United States has earned him popularity, but no matter how much success he enjoys, he is constantly overshadowed in the self-help realm by the talents of Deepak Chopra. His latest client may soon be the breakthrough he needs, and the surest way to earn a coveted guest appearance on Oprah: Darren Roanoke (Malco, Blades of Glory), a hockey player for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who has been doing little but choking on the ice whenever he thinks of the fact that his girlfriend left him for the well-endowed goalie for the Los Angeles Kings, Jacques "Le Coq" Grande (Timberlake, Shrek the Third). With the Leafs on the verge of winning the long-elusive Stanley Cup, owner Jane Bullard (Alba, The Eye) and coach Punch Cherkov (Troyer, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) are counting on Pitka's unorthodox methods to prove effective before the Finals go down the tubes.
There was a time when we could all appreciate Mike Myers' kitchen sink approach to comedy. We loved the fact that, even if the skit or gag he might employ weren't knee-slappingly hilarious, Myers' desire to make us laugh at any cost only made us like him all the more. Unfortunately for Myers, this kitchen sink approach also meant that he had exhausted every style of humor he knew how to do, and trademark brands of humor now seem old hat. While other comedians have been able to grow and mature to more finely-honed styles of comedy, Myers appears to have taken the opposite approach, by digging further into his past to come up with jokes he found amusing when people around him were first discovering he might be funny. Meanwhile, we in the audience who consider ourselves fans have continued to mature, so by dipping more and more into juvenile pranks, the less and less we're impressed with what he digs up.
That's not to say that Myers is no longer funny, because even though The Love Guru is a bad film, there are many clever moments and even the crassest of jokes might have been funny provided the proper context. What really makes the comedy suffer is overkill. After a while, all of the scatological displays, silly double entendres, and short jokes at Verne Troyer's expense get to be very stale fixings. I often refer to the fact that the flatulence around the campfire scene in Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles wouldn't have been funny if there were even one fart joke that preceded it. Myers' problem is that he keeps going back to the mine shaft, which looks suspiciously like his rear end, to provide the fodder for most of his jokes, and they don't get any funnier through the constant repetition.
Even among scatterbrain comedies like The Love Guru, there comes a point where it must actually get around to having a plot, despite Myers' best intentions at avoiding it. Avoidance would almost have been a blessing, as the more the storyline begins to take form, the less amusing the film becomes as a whole. Myers has proven that he has the juice to carry comedy just enough to cover a five to ten minute skit solidly. He was a comedy beast on "Saturday Night Live" because of this, and in his Wayne's World and Austin Powers films, their structures lent sufficiently to constantly evolving scenarios that gave the comedian just enough breathing room to explore different characters and new sets of stimuli to play off. In The Love Guru, Myers is a bit handcuffed by not having enough of a target to spoof. His "love guru" persona doesn't do much other than spout jealousy-induced barbs against Deepak Chopra and come up with trademark easy-learn self help anagrams. That's not enough to support a movie around, leaving Myers to reach into his standard bag of tricks, and time and again, Myers proves that, left to his own devices, what he really finds funny is vulgarity for vulgarity's sake.
The Love Guru isn't recommended to anyone but staunch Mike Myers fans, and perhaps those who enjoy every Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider comedy for their levels of crassness above and beyond the star factor. If your idea of great comedy is a plethora of short jokes, gross-out physical comedy like two men fighting with urine-soaked mops, and sophomoric attempts at funny names (Tugginmypudha, Satchabigknoba, Dick Pants, and Cherkov), you've found your comedic nirvana. The Love Guru doesn't even have the conviction of carrying through on its own philosophy, embodied in one of Guru Pitka's pat teachings called DRAMA (Distraction, Regression, Adjustment, Maturity, and Action). With his scattershot approach, Myers certainly has Distraction nailed, and with his penchant for immaturity, Regression fills in the rest of the gaps. Where he fails is in Adjusting as he never quite changes his tone once settling into his groove for crudeness, so what we're left with is just more and more Distraction and Regression. One can only hope that the failure of The Love Guru will give Myers the ability to proceed forward through Adjustment, allowing his next project to carry through to the end with Maturity and Action.
©2008 Vince Leo