Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Love Guru

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Even diehard fans of So I Married an Axe Murderer will admit that Mike Myers is more effective when he cloaks himself in a character. Whether it’s one of his Saturday Night Live stalwarts (like earnest rocker Wayne Campbell and cooler-than-thou Sprockets host Dieter) or his eerie embodiment of renowned hedonist and impresario Steve Rubell in 54, Myers works best behind a mask. So it’s no surprise that he’s created a new alter ego for The Love Guru, but there’s something deeper in his Guru Pitka.

Like fellow SNL alum Adam Sandler, whose You Don’t Mess with the Zohan advocated Middle East peace, Myers brings a mindfulness to his mindless comedy: This Deepak Chopra devotee wants to use laughter as a path to enlightenment. The mischievous Guru Pitka espouses an indubitably dubious philosophy known as DRAMA. This pastiche of Eastern religious practices, self-help techniques, New Age aphorisms and pointed wordplay is Myers’s way of sugarcoating the bitter medicine of spiritual awakening.

Despite his lofty goal, Myers doesn’t want to trade arrested development for profundity, and The Love Guru repeatedly bypasses the head and the heart to focus squarely on the crotch. Imagine if Austin Powers had followed the Beatles on their sojourn to India and added a spiritual component to his carnality. That’s Pitka, stewing in insecurity as he offers trademarked advice to celebrity disciples and repeatedly takes Mariska Hargitay’s name in vain.

After establishing the Guru’s influence, Myers and co-screenwriter Graham Gordy put him on ice: He’s hired by Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), beleaguered owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, to help star player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) get his mojo back for the Stanley Cup finals against the Los Angeles Kings. Myers mixes fact (the Leafs haven’t seen the Cup since 1967) with fiction (Roanoke as "the Tiger Woods of hockey") in a series of absurdist juxtapositions that director Marco Schnabel juggles with aplomb.

In a swift 88 minutes, The Love Guru alternately skewers and embraces its sacred cows. Justin Timberlake’s a well-endowed, dim-bulb goalie from Quebec and Ben Kingsley’s impish, cross-eyed Indian guru are great comic foils, and Verne Troyer’s Coach Cherkov is the punchy voice of reason. But Pitka isn’t nearly as inspirational as Myers believes him to be.

A pachyderm performance on the center ice is more memorable than anything this Guru has to say. Despite the lip service to self-knowledge and wisdom, ambition is the real elephant in the room.

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