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Archive for Friday, June 20, 2008

Love Guru’ a lame self-help romp

Mike Myers portrays the world's second best romance expert in the comedy "The Love Guru."

Mike Myers portrays the world's second best romance expert in the comedy "The Love Guru."

June 20, 2008

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Movie
The Love Guru * 1/2

Judging by the narcissistic credits of this scattershot comedy sketch strained to movie length, self-love does not seem to be an issue for writer-star Mike Myers. He plays a guru with an inferiority complex who falls for the Toronto Maple Leaf's owner (Jessica Alba) while counseling the team's lovesick star (Romany Malco).

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In "The Love Guru," Mike Myers must come to love himself before he can love others. From the credits of this scattershot comedy sketch stretched and strained to movie length, Myers clearly loved himself to the point of narcissism going in.

Besides starring, Myers is a producer and co-writer. He's in the cast list four times - three times for the same character (Guru Pitka, Young Pitka and Teenage Pitka) and for a two-second cameo as himself.

The song credits feature three tunes performed by Myers, among them Eastern-inflected and mystically bad versions of Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" and Steve Miller's "The Joker."

And Myers mercilessly inflicts some of his favorite things on the audience: his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs and Verne Troyer, the tiny actor who played Mini-Me in two of the "Austin Powers" flicks.

Self-love does not seem to be an issue for Myers, unlike Pitka, the world's second-best guru, who carries a chip on his shoulder from growing up in the shadow of top-seeded rival Deepak Chopra (who makes a brief appearance in "The Love Guru").

Looking like a cross between Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Charles Manson, Pitka seems to have it all: a popular self-help regimen, a lush L.A. ashram with celebrity fawners, even his own spiritual greeting, "Mariska Hargitay." It's cute at first but wears thin by the 20th or 30th time Pitka and his followers appropriate the "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" actress' name.

The orphan Pitka was raised along with Chopra by the cross-eyed Indian Guru Tugginmypuddha (Ben Kingsley, who's a long, long way from "Gandhi" here).

The teenage Pitka is put into a chastity belt until he can learn to love himself. For all his success counseling others on romance, the adult Pitka still has his privates encased in the metal contraption.

Enter Jessica Alba. She's Jane Bullard, the owner of the Maple Leafs (yeah, right), and her star player, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), has hit a slump just as the team has a shot at winning its first Stanley Cup in 40 years.

Darren's lovesick because his wife has taken up with well-endowed Jacques "Le Coq" Grande (Justin Timberlake), the goalie for the L.A. Kings, the Leafs' rivals in the finals.

So Jane engages Pitka to smooth things over between Darren and his wife. Of course, Jane herself falls for Myers' hoary Pitka (yeah, right), forcing the love guru to resolve his own inner conflicts.

Myers spent years honing Pitka, the first original character he has dreamed up in more than a decade, since the first "Austin Powers" movie arrived. Even putting all that time in on Pitka, Myers, co-writer Graham Gordy and first-time director Marco Schnabel (filmmaker Jay Roach's aide on the "Austin Powers" movies) come up with only a few real laughs.

Most of the gags are half-hearted, many puzzling and unfunny lines delivered by Myers with his trademark sly stare into the camera, as though waiting for fans to guffaw. He may have a long wait.

Myers pushes the PG-13 rating with the movie's bawdy language, coarse images and scatological humor involving such things as elephant dung and a fight with urine-soaked mops.

The first half of "The Love Guru" meanders drearily, but the climax packs a few chuckles. Otherwise an irritant as the Leafs' crusty coach, Troyer is the subject of an amusing slapstick moment near the finale.

With thick '70s-style hair and moustache, an outrageous French-Canadian accent and undying devotion to Celine Dion, Timberlake goofs it up and occasionally enlivens the movie.

Given nothing remotely challenging to do, Alba comes off as bland and hollow.

Obviously having fun playing Pitka, Myers' earnestness makes some lines seem funnier than they are. But his zeal cannot save most of the empty jokes from landing with a deadly thud.

Self-referential - or self-reverential - moments also include a snippet where a car radio briefly tunes in Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," Myers undergoing a fleeting flashback to "Wayne's World," when he and Dana Carvey led a group sing-along to the song.

Myers wants us all to love him, wants us all to be in on his jokes. But love and laughs are earned, not given just because you mug for the camera behind a wild wig and beard.

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