The Love Guru

2008-06-20 (General release)

Both frantic and tedious, Mike Meyers’ seeming satire of self-helping celebritude mostly repeats bits and concepts from Austin Powers. This time the designated fish out of water is not an international man of mystery, but a white guy raised to be a guru. Again, he’s surrounded by folks who take his social retardation as signs of enlightenment. Again, he milks a panoply of bad jokes for too long and too often. And again, he’s in love with his own broad mugging, believing with all his being that whatever he does is hilarious.

The Love Guru‘s similarity to Austin Powers is underscored by the inclusion of Verne Troyer as occasion for ongoing midget humor. Now, as Coach Cherkov, Troyer actually speaks, though mostly to set up Meyers’ own jokes, which, as you might guess from the coach’s name, have to do with sexual acts, bodily functions, and penises. Reportedly inspired by Meyers’ personal search for spiritual guidance following his father’s death, the dizzily self-obsessed Guru Pitka yearns to be “on Oprah,” and so become the “next Deepak Chopra” (neither of these celebrities wins points for showing up in feeble self-mockeries). Pitka’s seeming ticket to stardom is a star on the Toronto Maple Leafs, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), currently unable to score because he’s been traumatized by the loss of his vavoomy wife Prudence (Meaghan Good) to rival goalie Jacque “Le Coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake). If he can save the marriage (and so help Toronto win “Stanley’s Cup”), Pitka will get the invite he so covets, and so sell enough of his self-help books to surpass Chopra on the best-seller list.

As life goals (or movie premises) go, this is deeply lackluster. To expand the insult to feature running time, The Love Guru piles on the slapdash offenses. A few flashbacks indicate his indoctrination into guruness, with Ben Kingsley as his cross-eyed mentor Guru Tugginmypuddha. Here Pitka’s gross whiteness is emphasized by the awkward imposition of Meyers’ own freckled face atop a child’s body, as he states his reason for studying at the ashram: he wants to meet girls. Aptly astonished at the boy’s impertinence and ignorance, the elder Guru slaps a chastity belt on him, thus setting up for repeated noise gags as the adult Pitka’s erection clangs against its metal confines.

The most frequent inspiration for this bit is Jane (Jessica Alba), pretty-pouty owner of the Maple Leafs. Believing that bringing in the Love Guru is the right way to solve the puzzle of her star player, Jane arrives at his Los Angeles ashram in person, with Cherkov in tow. Here she observes his help-the-celebrities ritual, whereby everyone stands in waiting to obtain wisdom and peace, ostensibly compressed into the mantra “Mariska Hargitay” (recipients include desperate erstwhile stars like Jessica Simpson, Val Kilmer, and yes, Mariska Hargitay). Jane is inexplicably impressed, confessing her “schoolgirl crush” on Pitka, and so the running clanging gag is initiated. (In the film’s single sweet moment, Pitka observes Jane performing in a big fat Bollywood number — one of several such distractions — and gushes, “You are as cute as pie!” In fact, she is.)

In an entirely other plot, Pitka counsels Darren through his patented recovery “steps.” The player’s designation as the “Tiger Woods of hockey” notes the oddity of his blackness in the league, but the movie goes further (of course), with relentless measurings of penises (Grande’s padded Speedo and a few sound effects ensure you understand the basis of his name and, apparently, Prudence’s interest). In the how-offensive-can-it-be? run-off that comprises the movie, this black-white competition is hardly as large as the heap of guru-Hindu-elephant jokes. But it does remind you, not that you need reminding, of The Love Guru‘s dearth of intelligent or even basic humor. Offered a corn dog at a hockey game, Pitka can’t help himself: “Is this a dog’s tingly!”

Amid the countless “dick,” “nut-sack,” and “prick” jokes (several delivered by Stephen Colbert’s drug-addled rink-side commentator), the Darren problem is reduced (through the step called “regression”) to his domineering, gospel-singing mother (Telma Hopkins). You won’t care whether he works out his anxieties or if Prudence returns or even if he makes the last crucial score in the last crucial seconds of the last game. For all its efforts to offend everyone it can think of, The Love Guru is awfully short on originality, direction, and point. It is, in a word, disjointed.

RATING 1 / 10