Dir: Marco Schnabel. US. 2008. 86 mins.
The Love Guru 's rascally self-help guru who needs to learn to love himself may be Mike Myers' first original big-screen character in a long while, but he still feels familiar. Trading in Myers' favoured trademark steady diet of scatological humour, outlandish asides and laboriously-constructed sexual double entendres, he provides intermittent laughs - but they're detached from any sense of a cohesive whole.
Bowing against Steve Carell's action comedy update of Get Smart, The Love Guru should deliver healthy opening returns on the strength of Myers' name and return to live action. Nine-figure domestic grosses certainly seem within the picture's reach, but how much enlightenment it attains depends greatly on the staying power of its fast-and-furious summer competition, since the audience for The Love Guru won't expand much beyond its core constituency of younger males.
Myers' Powers films typically did less than 30 percent of their business internationally, but the movie's Canadian setting aside, its Eastern-tinged flavouring could connect more with audiences even as it stirs up some pre-release controversy. Ancillary returns, though, should be solid, with quotable double entendres and naughty sight gags driving repeat viewings and DVD sales.
An American who was left at the gates of an ashram in India as a child, Myers' Pitka was raised alongside Deepak Chopra - with whom he still nurses a rivalry - and mentored by Guru Tugginmypudha (Ben Kingsley). Now the head of a successful self-help and spirituality empire, Pitka's unorthodox methods are put to the test when he's hired to settle a rift between Toronto Maple Leafs star hockey player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) and his estranged wife (Meagan Good).
Out of revenge, Roanoke's wife has started dating L.A. Kings star goalie Jacques Grande (Justin Timberlake), sending her husband into a major professional skid. With the two teams squaring off in the Stanley Cup championship, Maple Leafs owner Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba) and Coach Cherkov (Verne Troyer) look to Pitka to get Roanoke back on his game, so the team can win. Pitka, meanwhile, nurses a crush on Jane, believing that she can unlock the chastity belt with which he's been saddled since youth.
Some of The Love Guru's haphazard gags (a voiceover machine with a Morgan Freeman setting; the repeated, blessed invocation of Mariska Hargitay, which invites a cameo by the actress) are inspired, even if a bit industry-specific. Myers, dropping his voice register to a honey-dipped professorial tone that spikes when he's stricken with devilish delight, is as invested as ever in character, and Pitka's character holds a lot of potential.
The Love Guru 's chief problems are twofold. The first lies in tone; Pitka's character seems overly based on what's convenient for a given scene. This leads one to question his sincerity, and the movie's veracity, even within its own parameters of heightened absurdity. Not rooted in character, much of the film's scatological humour feels like not particularly clever attempts at shoring up tween audience support.
The second problem is more specifically related to Myers' portrayal. Debut director Marco Schnabel certainly keeps things moving at a brisk pace, and has a visual idea for the story, but there's no honest check on Myers' hammy instincts, which drain a good bit of pop and surprise from many of the lines. Less mugging would have certainly bred a stronger attachment to the story, and a more natural appreciation of the jokes.
In supporting turns, a zonked Stephen Colbert and straight man Jim Gaffigan breathe some life into their roles as sportscasters calling the hockey action. Singer-actor Timberlake has fun playing big, meanwhile, and Malco (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Baby Mama) continues to display fine comedic timing and plenty of charisma to burn.
Michael De Luca
Mike Myers & Graham Gordy
Director of photography
George S. Clinton
David G. Fremlin