In his new movie The Love Guru, comedian Mike Myers attempts to make the lesson of his impish self-help guru Maurice Pitka a self-fulfilling prophecy: that life is too complicated, and if we stop worrying about the little stuff and laugh at the silliness all around us, we will be happier people.
Surprisingly, for the majority of the movie, he pulls it off. There are even a couple of scenes where Pitka is trying to teach his clients this very lesson, and when they catch themselves cracking up in spite of their better taste and judgment, darn if I wasn't cracking up, too.
Myers' Love Guru is a stranded orphan who grows up in India under the tutelage of Guru Tugginmypudha (it helps if you say it out loud). The cross-eyed teacher (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) sets his two prize pupils on very separate paths (no pun intended). A young Deepak Chopra (Jaan Padda) is given permission to explore all earthly pleasures, whereas young Maurice (Mike Myers' head superimposed on a child's body) is fitted with a chastity belt that won't be removed until he can learn to love himself before loving all others. This gives Maurice two goals in life: get more famous than Deepak and get laid.
Since his books all focus on romance, Guru Pitka's enterprising agent (John Oliver from "The Daily Show") scores his best meal ticket a high-profile gig sure to land him on Oprah. Bad boy hockey player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco, The 40-Year Old Virgin) has lost his game since he lost his wife to the monstrously endowed goalie, Jacques "Le Coq" Grand (pop star Justin Timberlake). If Pitka can put the marriage back together and get Roanoke to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a victory in the Stanley Cup, he will have all the fame in the world; however, if he learns true love himself, he can then have the heart (and body) of the Maple Leafs owner, Jane. She's played by Jessica Alba, so it's a toss-up of which is better.
The Love Guru isn't a great movie. It doesn't match Myers' best work in Wayne's World and Austin Powers, but if you like the former SNL player's brand of humor, then you will probably find yourself enjoying this good-natured, immature romp. Pitka is a lovable scamp, aware of his own goofiness, but just wanting to please. In a weird way, this may be the most revealing character that Myers has created for himself, the one that could be the most him. Like Peter Sellers, Myers hides in plain sight, letting his newest persona do the talking for him. As always, the actor has a knack for groaner puns and pop culture riffs that somehow make him endearing.
The only downside is that the same wink that makes Pitka so cute can also sometimes make it easier for Myers not to try as hard as he should. The Love Guru relies far too heavily on poop and penis jokes, and there are several stretches where the laughs dry up completely. There are also far too many gags where Myers falls into the usual schtick he's been peddling for quite a while now, and where it felt fresh eleven years ago in the first Austin Powers, the less funny sequels have pushed some of the routine past its sell-by date. Did we really need Vern Troyer to be in this movie just so Myers could trade barbs with Mini-Me all over again?
Still, like the smartest leaders, Myers surrounds himself with a lot of great people. Romany Malco is always entertaining in this kind of role, and Pitka's sidekick, Manu Narayan, provides a welcome Jiminy Cricket-style chorus for the impulsive guru. Also quite funny is Timberlake, whose guest stints on SNL have yielded some of the show's best moments in recent years. His lip-syncing to Celine Dion is screaming for an extended scene on the DVD. The show stealer has to be Stephen Colbert, however, as a very Stephen Colbert-like hockey announcer. His material never misfires.
Many aren't going to like The Love Guru. The feeling of been-there-done-that in regards to Myers' performance will turn some away, and dropping the sharpness of some of his past dialogue to go with potty humor exclusively may cause others to gag on the puerile nature of it all. On a different day, I may even be one of those people. Today, though, Mike Myers left me smiling and maybe taught me a little bit about not taking myself so seriously. Despite my better taste and judgment, I begrudgingly recommend you give him the chance to do the same.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with JoŽlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.