Movie review: ‘The Love Guru’

Dumb and Dumber: No love for the ‘Guru’ as Myers wallows in fake comic cuteness

June 20, 2008, Austin American-Statesman   

Mike Myers is the worst kind of comedian. He’s too shameless or clueless to conceal his pathological need to be loved, hugged and cuddled like an adorable little doll. His puppylike insecurity and celebrity vanity, a killer combo that must be torture to live with, are dazzlingly transparent. This makes him do something both understandable and unbecoming: He twinkles.

Or he tries to, with heroic strain. You can see Myers push and groan to be accepted, his tiny inner machinery creaking, grinding, belts snapping, smoke poofing hazardously. Inside, he’s dying. Outside — well, he’s doing the same.

And he knows he’s dying. So he takes the failed joke a step further to deflect his embarrassment. He does this by adding a weird noise or an odd double-take to the dead air. Rather than dwelling on the flop, we are suddenly diverted by his next non sequitur gesture. This way he takes control of the scene, turning his bombed gag into a fresh meta-gag, one that works as a chummy wink, a nudge of gratitude to the audience for playing along. He’s going for the twinkle.

In “The Love Guru,” which Myers co-wrote, co-produced and stars in, the performer twinkles like a big tinsel and glitter papier-mâché star pasted together for a grade-school Christmas pageant. His blissful glow and treacly blandishments are plastic things fashioned from ugly desperation and crude cynicism that bob like so much flotsam on Myers’ oceanic ego.

Now, in a movie like “The Love Guru,” in which Myers slathers on synthetic smarm in service of his furry New Age character Guru Pitka, all this might work in his favor. The throughline joke, after all, is about how vapidly euphoric and woozily optimistic Pitka is and how certain people buy into his brand of ersatz joy. (The film, meanwhile, largely avoids the unseemly dichotomy of spiritual purity and the gross fortunes it earns this sort of glitzy swami. Topical commentary would shrivel in such toxic air.)

But for the recipe to work it would require Myers and the comedy to be funny, which, almost majestically, they are not. To pinch a word from Pitka’s patois, the movie is transcendentally unhilarious.

I don’t know where to begin, or if I should. Would it be the wads of witless puns and acronyms, all of them labored sexual innuendos? The fulsome abundance of phallic references and below-the-waist fixations? The glorious fascination with the fecal and fluid? The extended scene of elephant coitus in front of a packed hockey rink? The lavish (and lavishly excruciating) musical numbers? Or how about Ben Kingsley single-handedly tarnishing his most iconic role as Gandhi by playing a cross-eyed Indian guru with exaggerated accent and brown face paint?

Among his unlucky co-stars, only Justin Timberlake as a French Québec hockey player summons real, if fleeting, comic inspiration, while Jessica Alba vanishes in her own mist, Stephen Colbert as a hockey color commentator regresses with crass shtick and Verne Troyer (Mini-Me in Myers’ “Austin Powers” trilogy) is punched, thrown and otherwise wholly dehumanized and should promptly sue his agent and move to Ecuador.

Then there’s Myers, who is no Peter Sellers, draped in a jungle of hair and beads, wearing a putty nose and alluding to his and others’ groins as frequently as one can in fewer than 90 minutes. Surely he has set a new record. So juvenile, so out of touch with any of the fuzzy emotions it purports to address, one has to wonder if the movie wasn’t originally planned as a children’s movie before the vulgarities were tacked on.

After Wayne Campbell, Austin Powers and Shrek, Myers has struck upon his flimsiest character yet with Pitka. He’s a wildly superficial creation, hardly thought out or given any footing in reality. Mugging and mincing and goo-gooing with a cartoon Indian lilt, Myers plays a completely infantilized version of himself, oozing willed charms and puckish cutes.

His dopey, incandescent smile — the easily spoofed trademark of beneficent, quasi-Eastern spiritual guides — is supposed to look forced and mystically bright in a lumbering spoof like this. Still, fatally, Myers cannot hide the self-satisfaction behind that mile-wide rictus.

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