A film review by Craig J. Koban


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

Directed by Marco Schnabel / Written by Myers and Graham Gordy

I 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.  

No, 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.  

And…for 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 admit…that seemed…odd.

Perhaps 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).  

During 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 Tugginmypudha’s...urine.  Hardy-har.  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. 

It 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).   

It 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.

There 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. 

Yet, 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. 

Myers, 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.  Fine.  But 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. 

I laughed uncontrollably a few times during THE LOVE GURU, which easily helps to deflect its labeling as a comic dead zone.  Unfortunately - and more times often than not – I also stared at the screen ashamed by what I was hearing and seeing.    Myers, as stated, is fiendishly clever and capable of being funnier than anyone in the movies, and there are instances of his comic prowess on display here and there in THE LOVE GURU.  Alas, instead of being intelligent and satisfyingly brazen with its satire and targets, Myers really fumbles the ball with too many feebly concocted jokes that belong in the crapper.  What this would-be hilarious comedy truly needs is some guru-like guidance and, to loosely paraphrase Wayne Campbell, "Nooooo Wa-hay.  This comedy is not worthy." 

  H O M E