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Dustin Putman

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The Love Guru  (2008)
2 Stars
Directed by Marco Schnabel.
Cast: Mike Myers, Jessica Alba, Romany Malco, Verne Troyer, Meagan Good, Manu Narayan, Justin Timberlake, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Jim Gaffigan, Ben Kingsley, Omid Djalili, Telma Hopkins, Deepak Chopra, Jessica Simpson, Val Kilmer, Mariska Hargitay, Kanye West, Rob Blake.
2008 – 89 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some violence and drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 20, 2008.
It has been five years since Mike Myers has physically graced the silver screen (his last live-action film was 2003's "The Cat in the Hat"), apparently because, according to the comedian, that's how long it took to prep his new character of "Near-Eastern" self-help instructor Guru Pitka. The wait wasn't worth it—when all is said and done, "The Love Guru" still feels like a fairly pedestrian, slap-dash piece of work—but the tone is so light and goofy that it's difficult to imagine anyone getting offended by its onslaught of bathroom humor, penis gags, midget jokes, elephant sex, and Hindu-flavored satire. If such things can be considered good-natured, then that's how they come off here.

When star hockey player of the Toronto Maple Leafs Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) is dumped by beloved wife Prudence (Meagan Good), she promptly starts going out with Los Angeles Kings adversary Jacques 'Le Coq' Grande (Justin Timberlake). With Darren's personal life in shambles and his game on the ice suddenly in the gutter, desperate team owner Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba) seeks the aid of Guru Pitka (Mike Myers) to help get him back on his feet and reunited with Prudence. Pitka accepts the task, hoping that if he succeeds he will finally escape the shadow of his #1 competition, Deepak Chopra, and get invited on Oprah. In the meantime, he experiences his own form of enlightenment about what it means to be true to oneself.

"The Love Guru" pounds so many jokes over the viewer's head—double-entendres used in characters' names and Pitka's philosophical teachings are prevalent—that it's not so unfortunate only a minority of them work. Turning a failure into a somewhat likeable experience is Mike Myers himself, whose flagrant mugging and joy of performing are part of his charm. Myers' vocal inflections may be similar to that of Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, but Guru Pitka is otherwise a fresh persona, his sense of calm interspersed with over-the-top bits of buffoonery kind of fetching. Much of the comedy falls flat—a scene involving urine-soaked mops is just plain awful and goes nowhere, and Justin Timberlake (2007's "Alpha Dog") fails to do anything of note with his admittedly thin role as Jacques 'Le Coq' Grande—but subtler details, such as the way Pitka moves around on his motorized pillow and the devilishly clever use of Chris Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing," are cute. The same goes for the oddly catchy sitar covers Mike Myers does of "9 to 5," "More Than Words" and "The Joker," and the fitting cameo by "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" star Mariska Hargitay.

Less inspired is Marco Schnabel, tackling his first directorial effort after working second-unit on 2002's "Austin Powers in Goldmember." He is clearly an amateur, and the editing is a chainsaw-slinging mess that too slowly cuts between characters in conversation, thus making the actors look like they're searching for their next line. The plot is okay, but it holds no impact because the relationships we're supposed to care about—Darren and Prudence, Pitka and Jane—feel forced, one-note and disingenuous. The pacing, meanwhile, is fast, but the way scenes are strung together more resemble skits than a well-formed motion picture. All performances, from the pretty Jessica Alba (2008's "The Eye"), to the always watchable Romany Malco (2008's "Baby Mama"), to a cross-eyed Ben Kingsley (2006's "BloodRayne") as Guru Tugginmypudha, are just pieces of scenery when standing next to Mike Myers.

Guru Pitka owns "The Love Guru," as well he should, but so little care has been brought to who and what surrounds this quirkily original character that it almost feels like a one-man show with an outline rather than a script. As a brisk, frothy summer comedy, audiences could do worse—they could even do worse this very same release weekend, with the Steve Carell misfire "Get Smart"—but there should be no expectations of it sticking in the fond forefront of their memories longer than a few minutes after it's over.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman