A film review by Craig J. Koban
THE LOVE GURU
2008, PG-13, 89 mins.
2008, PG-13, 89 mins.
Guru Pitka: Mike Myers / Jane Bullard: Jessica Alba /
Jacques Grande: Justin Timberlake / Darren Roanoke: Romany Malco /
Prudence: Meagan Good / Coach: Verne Troyer / Tugginmypudha:
Ben Kingsley / Jay Kell: Stephen Colbert
read a report that the Hindu American Foundation was granted a
pre-screening of Mike Myers’ new comedy, THE LOVE GURU.
This stemmed from the groups’ uneasy concerns that the film would
reinforce widely held ethnic stereotypes about Hindu people, not to
mention that it would broadly showcase spiritual leaders and their
teachings by promoting intolerance of their religion.
After the screening, Aseem
Shukla – one of the Foundation members – went on record to say, “The
film was vulgar, crude and, in the opinion of many of the attendees, too
often tasteless in its puerile sense of humor.”
However, he went to say
that, “Very few of the Hindus viewing the film…found it overtly
anti-Hindu or mean spirited.”
Those comments perhaps best encapsulate my feelings about THE LOVE GURU. Myers' film (he serves as actor, producer, and co-writer) is hardly the comedic trainwreck that many have let on it is, nor is the film likely to offend anyone, unless you are one that does not like parodies rife with endless references to the male appendage, several jokes involving flatulence, and a considerable level of infantile gags centered on dawrves.
the most positive thing that I will say about THE LOVE GURU is that
it’s an ambitious comedy…a ferociously ambitious comedy:
It’s a romantic farce, a sports comedy, a parody of self-help
gurus, a stinging commentary about the commercialization of religion, and
a homage (albeit very briefly) to Bollywood musicals.
At face value, Myers at least goes for broke and levels viewers
with a relative avalanche of jokes and pratfalls…and it’s a brisk
assault on the senses, to be sure. My
main misgivings with the film is that – despite Myers pulling out all of
the stops to make us laugh – he smothers any respectable amount of
comedic ingenuity in the film with an annoyingly sophomoric and juvenile
level of pee-pee and poo-poo gags and general scatological shenanigans.
Very few comedies have displayed such a daft and razor sharp wit
alongside a heavy preponderance of lazily naughty bathroom humor as
THE LOVE GURU demonstrates. This
is a comedy at complete odds with itself, and unfortunately for Myers, the
film’s penis-obsessed jokes and endless references to bodily fluids
drowns the film.
the record…the film does achieve a first: It’s the only American
comedy ever that has two elephants having intercourse on the ice surface
of an NHL game right before a penalty shot that could end a best of seven
series and decide the winner of the Stanley Cup.
Even in all of my near 30-plus years of watching hockey…I gotta
the other dilemma that the film suffers from is that the main character is
not as inspired and original as Myers’ two other landmark comic
creations: Wayne Campbell from WAYNE’S WORLD and, most notably, the lead
swinger/spy from AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY.
Here he plays the Guru Pitka, well known the world over as “The
Love Guru” and, much to his displeasure, the “Second Most Famous Guru
after Deepak Chopra.” Born
in America, but raised in an India ashram, Pitka studied under the
tutelage of Guru Tugginmypudha (Ben
Kinsely, subtly reminding viewers that he did play GANDHI, but
nevertheless engages in his most embarrassing performance since A
SOUND OF THUNDER).
a flashback (where CGI effects have digitally put Myers head on a
child’s body - not funny at all), the adolescent Pitka and his buddy
Chopra meet Tugginmypudha, but
Pitka simply wants to become a guru to meet girls and make them like him.
Unfortunately for him, part of his training is to have a battle
with another guru while wielding mops that have been drenched in
We flash forward to the present and the older Pitka is successful
and has written many popular books (the titles, which I won’t spoil
here, do get big laughs), but he still remains second fiddle to his former
buddy Chopra. Pitka's fantasy is to
be on Oprah, a promised land of spiritual enlightenment, but to do so…he
must undertake a rather insurmountable assignment in Canada…eh.
seems that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ owner, the uber-hot Jane Bullard
(played, of course, by the uber hot Jessica Alba, one of the more
successful actresses at looking unattainably gorgeous while delivering
lines with a monstrously stiff modulation) has a big problem.
Her star player, the media anointed “Tiger Woods of Hockey”,
Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco, very funny as Steve Carell's buddy in THE
40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, but absolutely stilted here) can’t find his
A-game for the looming Stanley Cup Finals because of his terrible breakup
with girlfriend Prudence (Meagan Good, barely a presence in the
film...aside from her ample, bikini clad cleavage).
appears that she has hooked up with a French Canadian Goalie named Jacques
'Le Coq' Grande (Justin Timberlake, perhaps giving the worst French accent
in movie history). “Le
Coq” is aptly named because of his rather large penis (one of what seems
like a zillion dick jokes in the film) and he plays for the L.A. Kings
that are in turn playing against the Leafs for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Pitka’s mission is simple: The
Maple Leafs will pay him $2 million (Canadian, I guess) if he reunites
Prudence with Darren, securing the Cup victory and, henceforth, allowing
Pitka to finally make it on Oprah. Oh…and
along the way…he must also find the path to “self love” so that he
can finally rid himself of his vow of chastity (which is always on his
mind, primarily reinforced by his metal chastity belt that he wears) so he
can finally hook up with the very fetching Leaf’s owner, who has had a
crush on the guru for years. She too has man troubles, because she is
a hated woman in hockey town. Hmmmm...team owner is played by
Alba...and she has problems getting with a man? Sure...yup...uh-huh.
are moments where I thought that THE LOVE GURU was one of the freshest and
funniest films of the year. An
opening montage – with Myers’ guru stringing the sintar and engaging
in a Bollywood styled parody of the song “9 to 5” – is infectiously
funny and inspired, as is a later fantasy sequence that has him
daydreaming about spending his life with the hockey owner (the sequence is
dead-on in capturing the aesthetic of the cheap, disposable, but lively
Bollywood musicals). Many of
the moments where Pitka engages in his self-help seminars - where he
preaches lifestyle choices with inadvertently dirty acronyms - is very
funny, especially when he modestly adds a “TM” at the end of each mantra.
Side-splittingly hilarious is THE COLBERT REPORTS’ Stephen
Colbert, who plays a frequently inebriated Hockey Night in Canada color
commentator, Jay Kell, that adds much color to the broadcasts.
His telestrator explanation of what entails the goalie's
“five-hole” provides the film’s only funny penis gag.
the negatives clearly outweigh the positives here.
For starters, Myers’ Pitka is not genuinely interesting as a
comic creation: he’s essentially a hindu-ized Austin Powers that kind of
awkwardly garners laughs, more often of the cheap and sensationalistic
variety. Even more
exasperating is the fact that Pitka, despite being ostensibly a spiritual
man of faith, has the mouth and sense of humor of a horny, vulgar
teenager, often prone to making relentless male appendage and bathroom
inspired jokes, which grow teeth-gratingly obnoxious as the film
progresses. Myers, like Peter
Sellers, has the comic tenacity and foresight to try anything to get a
laugh: sometimes he rousingly succeeds, but unfortunately there are too
many attempts in the film where his camera mugging attempts at
wall-to-wall 4th Grade humor leaves a lot to be desired.
Myers is a genuinely smart screen comedian (his lampooning of the
spy genre in AUSTIN POWERS was nearly flawless), but here he flounders in
too many immature and gross pratfalls.
Instead of being a truly inspired New Age satire on mysticism, THE
LOVE GURU is too involved with being a witless and filthy enterprise. A shame.
a religiously devoted fan of his hometown Leafs, clearly opted to have a
hockey theme here to appease his inner fantasies of a Leafs Cup Victory.
his love for Canada’s national pastime display so little knowledge and
regard about the game in ‘THE LOVE GURU (how the NHL and the Toronto
Maple Leafs agreed to lend their support here seems stupefying). Even more egregious is the casting of Mike Myers Comedy
punching bag, Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer, who plays the Leafs coach.
Scenes involving Myers’ Pitka ridiculing Troyer’s dwarf status
is depressingly desperate (had we not got enough “little people” jabs
from the last few AUSTIN POWERS films?). One moment makes so little sense that it smothers all of the
comedy within it. Pitka and
the Leafs' brass meet with Troyer in his office, but it’s decked out to
the proportions of Troyer’s small stature, which means that office
furniture is petite and the ceiling is only 5 feet high.
Now, what in the hell is the point of having an office for meetings
when 99 per cent of Maple Leafs staff could not comfortably enter?
For the sake of having a mind-numbingly bad payoff for a Pitka
sight gag as he leaves the office, I guess.