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The Love GuruPosted Monday, June 30, 2008, at 10:40 AM
BEHOLD Mike Myers.
As Guru Pitka, a self-styled Deepak Chopra wannabe whose every utterance has been pre-packaged and trademarked, he glowers from behind a flowing Rasputin beard, waxed curlicue mustache and eyebrows that arch and swoop like a roller coaster. He's a one-man production number: You take him in the way you would, say, the Taj Mahal, or a Steve Wynn hotel lobby.
Early in "The Love Guru," a comedy of low blows and elephantine misfires, a childhood flashback lets us in on the character's origins. The beardless, airbrushed face of a grown-up Myers appears atop the frame of a 12-year-old American boy, who has arrived at an ashram in his Farrah Fawcett T-shirt to study with a cross-eyed mystic (Ben Kingsley, mocking his "Gandhi" moment with sporting good cheer).
The reality belied by this cunning visual trick is quite the opposite of what we are shown. In truth, the Canadian-born Myers is a pubescent kid trapped in the body of a 45-year-old man. Don't be fooled by the kitsch Bollywood veneer. "The Love Guru's" prankster garb is cut from the same brash, developmentally stunted cloth as "Wayne's World" and the "Austin Powers" series.
But by this point, the threads are worse for wear. Written by Myers and Graham Gordy, "The Love Guru" amplifies the performer's phallo-centric fondness for corn dogs, hockey sticks and masturbatory shtick. The ultimate beneficiary of all of this libidinous energy is Jessica Alba, an actor of such, um, particular abilities as to make Pitka's youthful enthusiasm for Fawcett seem high-toned by comparison.
Alba does whatever it is that she does as Jane Bullard, the much put-upon owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. Nothing has gone well for Bullard or her flagging team since the wife of her star player, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), ran off with an L.A. Kings goalie, Jacques "Le Coq" Grande (a game Justin Timberlake). As one might surmise from his moniker, Grande is as renowned for his natural endowments as for his supernatural athletic prowess. Timberlake descends to the occasion, affecting a Quebecois accent ("Oo is this in my 'ouse?") as lumpy as his stuffed thong underpants.
Bullard spies her solution in Pitka, who believes he is only one "Oprah" TV appearance awayfrom leaping out of Hollywood-guru status and into the international leagues. If Pitka can successfully deploy his patented self-help homilies to reunite Roanoke with his wife (Meagan Good), he will get his "Oprah" glory and, presumably, a place on the supermarket checkout shelves next to Chopra.
The superstar ambitions of the fictional Pitka can't hold a candle to the self-promotional achievements of the real-life Winfrey, who bestows her presence and implicit seal of approval upon the proceedings. (Winfrey seems to piecemeal out her image to screenwriters with the same indiscriminate fervor with which she doles out free Fords to adoring audience members.) While there is something undoubtedly irresistible about becoming a plot point in your own lifetime, the queen of American middlebrow literacy might want to put on the brakes after "The Love Guru," whose signature moment arrives when a dwarf actor is compelled to belch, pass gas and blow a booger out of his nose in one fell swoop.
As the Maple Leafs' truculent coach Cherkov, the actor in question, Verne Troyer, gets the film's final and funniest words. That they are also of his own spontaneous invention speaks volumes about the shrinking imagination of Myers, who continues to hone his franchise empire on the belief that penis activity and the politically incorrect (bring on the midget jokes and lewd Indian surnames) is the cutting edge, if not the manifest destiny, of screen comedy.
Fortunately for Myers, there are enough 15-minute celebrities in need of an extra minute's extension to go along for the ride; at least four or five of them make unheralded appearances here, along with one or two others of more substantive talent. Far be it for me to spoil the surprise. Oh, what the heck -- Stephen Colbert.
For those unimpressed with cameo turns or impatient with libidinous wordplay, there is a barroom brawl and a joust with urine-drenched mops, high-testosterone special ops who liberate the hero from his zen-like facade and allow him to show us what he's made of. The film's sunniest moments occur whenever song preempts all the fighting and smirking. Myers leads the cast in sitar-accompanied covers of such Bollywood favorites as "9 to 5" and Steve Miller's "The Joker," revealing a glimmer of the cross-cultural romp that could have been.
"The Love Guru" marks the feature directing debut of Marco Schnabel, who, as far as we can make out, is no relation to the man behind "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."
"The Love Guru." MPAA rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. In wide release.
Thank you to the Los Angeles Times.
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