Movie Review

There's little to love in Myers's 'Guru'

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / June 20, 2008

Some movies are polite enough to save their outtakes for the closing credits. Others wait for the DVD release. "The Love Guru" doesn't have that kind of patience. It's a pitiful assortment of bad ideas and gags that never work; I don't know what else to call a movie that asks us to find Jessica Alba credible not only as the owner of the beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs and a comedian, but as a woman attracted to a vulgar, hirsute Mike Myers. Oh, yes I do: Embarrassing.

Alba continues her tragic imperviousness to comedy, failing to deliver the merest syllables ("you," "and," "me," for instance) with conviction. But focusing on her limitations is unfair since the movie is essentially a vehicle for Myers's indulgences as an entertainer and his iniquities as an egotist. This is the first time we've seen Myers in the flesh since he committed assault and battery on Dr. Seuss, and I wish the cat had stayed in the hat.

Myers brings us another tale of male mojos lost and found. This one concerns a Toronto Maple Leafs player (Romany Malco) whose game has gone south since his wife (a misused Meagan Good) left him for the Los Angeles Kings' lascivious, heavily endowed goalie (Justin Timberlake). Alba and the Maples Leafs' coach (Verne Troyer) turn to Myers's title superstar spiritualist, Guru Pitka, a Westerner raised by a cross-eyed Indian wise man (Ben Kingsley, sending up himself as Gandhi).

Should the dubiously accented Pitka (he sounds like every Mike Myers character ever created) reunite the athlete with his lady and the Leafs win the Stanley Cup, Oprah Winfrey will declare him "the next Deepak Chopra." Cue humping elephants, testicular sight gags, would-be cheeky unprintable anagrams, and would-be cheekier malapropisms.

If you can see comedy gold in those hills, you probably work at Paramount, the studio that's spamming movie theaters with this junk. The joke-to-laugh ratio is woeful. From scene to scene, you get the sense that Myers, who wrote the movie with Graham Gordy (Marco Schnabel directed it), might be trying to work something out. But his process here is always more scatological than artistic. With a changeling like Peter Sellers, the whooshing you heard, even on a bad film, was that of man racing concepts. On "The Love Guru," the same sound is more of a flushing nature. In the first two "Austin Powers" movies, Myers had some inspired Sellers moments, and the movies were after something - James Bond and 1960s London.

What's the joke this time? Things are so bad here that the few good ideas seem brilliant. Pitka's mantra, for instance, is "Mariska Hargitay," and in childhood flashbacks Myers's freckled face is digitally superimposed on a child's body. But when you see Alba and Myers cheesing it up in a Bollywood-style duet, complete with fake print scratches and happy nonsense lyrics ("lugubrious recalcitrance"), you glimpse the movie this really should have been.

In the early scenes, it looked as though "The Love Guru" might be assailing Hollywood's attraction to cults and spiritual outfits. After one of Pitka's shows, Val Kilmer and Jessica Simpson show up backstage. But the movie isn't going for C-list satire. Later it looks like it might be playing racial games. Timberlake's French-Canadian has a bigger penis than his black rival (the movie does nothing with Malco's being a star in the NHL).

It's all just an excuse for Timberlake to stuff his Speedo (now he's bringing sexy front) and go gaga over - wait for it - Celine Dion. (He's terrible but in a self-mocking, YouTube-stunt sort of way.) For his part, Malco, who was last seen as Tina Fey's doorman in "Baby Mama," isn't entrusted to do much. And no opportunity to humiliate Troyer, who was Myers's tiny "Austin Powers" sidekick, is passed up.

Right now Adam Sandler is up to similar tricks in "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," and he's getting away with them. That movie fearlessly concocts an entertaining brew of vulgarity and sweetness out of sexuality, race, and unfashionably bad taste. It's just as cruddy-looking as "The Love Guru" - the popularity of homemade viral videos (which crested a year ago) having allowed moviemakers to lower their formal standards or employ none at all - but "Zohan" gets a charge out of the culture it's plugged into. "The Love Guru" is plugged into trends that died 10 years ago, and it can't make its idiosyncrasies work in its favor the way "Zohan" does. They're charmless.

The Love Guru

Directed by: Marco Schnabel

Written by: Mike Myers

and Graham Gordy

Starring: Myers, Romany Malco, Verne Troyer, Jessica Alba,

and Justin Timberlake

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 86 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (language, some comic violence and drug references, crude and sexual content throughout, including Timberlake in

a stuffed Speedo)

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