It took Mike Myers five years to come up with this? Apart from his voiceover work on the “Shrek” movies, he’s been absent from the screen for half a decade, ever since the last installment of the huge Austin Powers series stank up theatres. Unfortunately, “The Love Guru” may convince you that the wait hasn’t been long enough. Hindu activists have been agitating against the picture, in which the former SNL star plays a self-styled spiritual leader called Guru Pitka who aims to equal Deepak Chopra’s celebrity with an oddball mix of off-the-wall teaching and wacky personal performance. It’s so lame that by the time it’s over you might want to join the protest, though not for religious reasons.
What passes for plot hinges on Pitka being hired by Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), owner of the luckless Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, to “cure” her star player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), who’s gone into a skill-destroying tailspin after his wife Prudence (Meagan Good) left him for Jacques Grande (Justin Timberlake), the extremely well-endowed goalie of the rival L.A. Kings. Pitka’s technique apparently involves a process indicated by the acronym “DRAMA” that he has inscribed on the knuckles of his hand (Pitka loves acronyms, some of which are good for a quick smile), but it’s unclear what that is. Instead what the script offers is a smorgasbord of sketches, most involving potty humor, sexual innuendo and the sort of leering vulgarity that appeals to the ten-year old boy present in so many moviegoers of all ages nowadays.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t fleeting moments of amusement in the flood of grossness and witlessness. The action is punctuated by Bollywood-like musical numbers that might not be brilliant, but provide a pleasant respite. John Oliver brings his “Daily Show” brand of braggadocio to the part of Pitka’s greedy agent (despite the unfortunate name Dick Pants that Myers has saddled him with), and Manu Narayan is nicely laid-back as the guru’s aide-de-camp. And there are a number of winning cameos, including one by Mariska Hargitay, whose name Pitka employs as a personal mantra—even Mike Myers does a cameo toward the close—though the one by Chopra falls flat due to the poor man’s stiffness before the camera and apparently Oprah Winfrey, on whose show the guru is desperate to appear, apparently declined an invitation to participate.
On the other hand, Myers’ Pitka is not an inspired creation. Things begin badly with a sequence showing him as a boy, utilizing the computer trick employed by the Wayans brothers in the atrocious “Little Man,” of superimposing his head on a kid’s body. And though his bug-eyed shtick as the older guru might be enjoyable in the short doses of SNL skits, it pales over the course of even as short (87-minutes) a feature as this, despite a few bits (like those involving a voice-altering machine and a floating carpet) that come off, at least until they’re repeated once too often.
And the supporting characters are either bland or raging clowns. The former category includes Alba’s Bullard, who becomes Pitka’s romantic interest but continues her line of dull gorgeous woman roles, and the married pair of Malco and Good: he comes across like a low-recent Cuba Gooding, and she’s simply forgettable. On the other hand, poor Timberlake is forced to play the imperfect fool, furnished with a deliberately terrible accent and a codpiece that makes the oversized one worn by Adam Sandler in “Zohan” look like its little brother. Verne Troyer is cast as the Maple Leaf coach only so that Myers can spout a stream of midget jokes that are as old as they are unfunny. Ben Kingsley does little more than an extended Ben Turpin-style cross-eyed routine as Pitka’s mentor. And worst of all, Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan are dreadful as the TV commentator for the Stanley Cup games; you need only compare their riffs to the genuinely witty ones in Christopher Guest’s “Best of Show” to see what’s missing here.
The fact that “The Love Guru” is no more than a random, and frankly lackadaisical, collection of puerile gags and jokes, mostly of the off-color variety, shouldn’t be blamed on neophyte director Marco Schnabel. This is obviously Myers’ show all the way. And part of the problem with being so much in charge is that you have to take the blame for the result.