June 26, 2008

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The Love Guru (PG-13)
Mike Myers makes us sigh and shake our heads at The Love Guru, a stale comedy about a self-help guru.

Guru Pitka (Myers) wants to be the next Deepak Chopra, complete with fame, fortune and Oprah appearances. How can he get that? Perhaps by pulling off a wellness coup — brining back together talented but now shaky Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) and his estranged wife Prudence (Meagan Good). Standing in the way of that reunion, sort of, is her new boyfriend L.A. Kings hockey star Jacques Grande (Justin Timberlake), the French Canadian known for being, as it were, Le Grande. Also Roanoke’s own insecurities.

Difficult though this reunion would seem, if Pitka were successful he would gain not only a chance at Oprah’s show but also possibly the love of Jane (Jessica Alba), the team’s owner.

So, rather than list the things that are not funny about The Love Guru (More jokes about Verne “Mini Me” Troyer’s size? Really?), let’s talk about the much smaller list of things that are funny. Of the seemingly large number of musical or music-related bits in this movie, a scratchy-film recreation of a Bollywood fantasy sequence and a big Bollywood finale are genuinely fun and I guess I didn’t mind Myers’ sitar cover of “9 to 5.” Timberlake as the ketchup-on-Pop-Tarts-eating Grande is hilarious. Sure, some of that hilarity is of the stupid variety, but it worked, I laughed. Guess that Mickey Mouse Club training really paid off. Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan play not-entirely-necessary sportscasters whose “on air” performances were nonetheless, more often than not, funny. There is a funny Mariska Hargitay cameo. For every 30 Myers lines, I probably did chuckle (or throught about chuckling) at one.

And there you are. Watching The Love Guru isn’t just an exercise in seeing weak humor trotted out a good six years past its expiration date. It’s embarrassing. It makes you feel a little sad. You sense that — as Myers has said in all those interviews about how his dad’s death and Myers’ own spiritual yearnings led him to create the Pitka character — there is some real heart behind this movie. A heart that now is being ground into a fine powder by all the enumerations of the many ways in which this movie is almost unwatchably bad. In case you were curious, here are some: the love story between Myers and Alba is unnecessary and forced, and Myers keeps on a joke 30 seconds to several minutes past the point of actual funny. Also, I could live forever and never see/hear another midget joke and be just fine. And Ben Kingsley’s role as a cross-eyed and gas-passing guru karmically undoes his portrayal of Gandhi (what is it with Kingsley’s inability to say no to anything?).

Though only 88 minutes, The Love Guru is still unbearably long. Edit it down to 15, mostly Timberlake-focused minutes and maybe you’d have yourself a mediocre movie. D+

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references. Directed by Marco Schnabel and written by Mike Myers and Graham Gordy, The Love Guru is hour and 28 minutes long and is, at least through Thursday, distributed in wide release by Paramount.