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"THE LOVE GURU"
(2008) (Mike Myers, Jessica Alba) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A motivational guru hopes that by reconciling a professional hockey player and his estranged wife he'll land a spot on Oprah and thus no longer be second fiddle to his longtime rival.
PLOT:
Guru Pitka (MIKE MYERS) is an American motivational philosopher who was orphaned and then raised in India by Guru Tugginmypudha (BEN KINGSLEY) whose other pupil, Deepak Chopra, has long since eclipsed Pitka in terms of fame. Thus, when Toronto Maples Leafs owner Jane Bullard (JESSICA ALBA) asks for his help with one of her players, Pitka, his personal assistant Rajneesh (MANU NARAYAN), and especially his agent Dick Pants (JOHN OLIVER) all jump at the chance.

After all, there's a promise of an appearance on Oprah if Pitka can get professional hockey player Darren Roanoke (ROMANY MALCO) back together with his estranged wife Prudence (MEAGAN GOOD). The only problem is that she's now seeing Jacques "Le Coq" Grande (JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE), the well-endowed goalie for the opposing team the Leafs are facing in the Stanley Cup Finals.

As noted by TV announcers Jay Kell (STEPHEN COLBERT) and Trent Lueders (JIM GAFFIGAN), not to mention diminutive Coach Cherkov (VERNE TROYER), Darren's game has fallen to pieces after the breakup, a condition further worsened by his inability to stand up to his opinionated choir director mother, Lillian (TELMA HOPKINS).

With little time to spare, Pitka tries to work his philosophical magic on Darren, all while falling for Jane. That's a development that has him flummoxed due to the chastity belt Guru Tugginmypudha has made him wear until he learns to love himself.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
In a way, movie directors are somewhat akin to motivational gurus. After all, they both have their own vision of how things should be, and their job is to bring out the best of those under their guidance. All while inspiring confidence and eliminating self-doubt, self-loathing or any number of other personal demons that might otherwise affect one's performance.

After watching "The Love Guru," it's obvious former second unit director turned first time feature director Marco Schnabel is nowhere near ready for the role. A disjointed, sophomoric and mostly laugh free comedy, it's not only a disappointing debut, but also a major step backwards for star Mike Myers who proves he needs someone like Jay Roach (director of the "Austin Powers" flicks) to keep him and his comedy from getting out of hand.

Then again, the writing may have been on the wall in the last installment of that wildly popular series ("Austin Powers in Goldmember") that we noted as "starting to feel as if it's losing much of its creative and imaginative steam, and clearly misses the original charm, spontaneity and freshness that made the earlier efforts so entertaining."

But it comes off as a masterpiece compared to this dreck. While it relies on much of the same sort of juvenile sexual material, crude jokes, innuendo and double entendres, and outrageous characters that populated the "Powers" pics, the material here near constantly feels off in just about every way imaginable, be that regarding cleverness, pacing and timing, and, most obviously, novelty.

And that's because Myers has gone to the well one too many times with his usual shtick in terms of mannerisms, vocal delivery, tics and such. Purposeful or not, Guru Pitka could be Austin Powers' long lost brother, and the comparison isn't favorable on this end of the cinematic sibling line.

Boiled down, what we have is a skit-like idea stretched to feature length (thankfully, however, the one saving grace is a running time of less than 90 minutes, including credits) that's filled with not much more than a series of loosely connected skits and jokes.

Although much of the "Powers" films were aimed at the stereotypical mindset of adolescent males (what with all of the penis and related jokes, hot babes and such), at least the material was funny (to varying degrees), contained fun parodies of 1960s era movie spy characters and had a certain charm, all of which are missing this time around.

While Myers has been allowed to run around apparently unchecked, his costars don't have much with which to work. Jessica Alba is one again a near blank slate (pretty to look at, but residing in a pretty vacuous character) and Ben Kingsley misfires in a shockingly ill-conceived character (a cross-eyed guru with a penchant for ordering a urine-soaked mop battle where he provides the liquid).

Romany Malco is wasted as the hockey player needing the guru treatment (which barely comprises the main but meager plot) and while Justin Timberlake gets a few funny moments as a well-endowed, Celine Dion loving Canadian goalie, the one-note but repeated gag quickly wears out its welcome. Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan appear as a broadcast duo (with the joke being the former is unhinged and the latter is the straight man to him), but this material lacks novelty as it feels lifted from a Will Ferrell sports comedy.

Meanwhile, Verne Troyer (Mini Me in the last two "Powers" flicks) once again is the butt of numerous small person jokes, but in a far less inspired role. That said, at least he gets the funniest line in the film, albeit in an outtake during the end credits that arrive none too soon for anyone with a sense of and appetite for good (and funny) comedy.

Aside from a few moments that might make you chuckle (most notably Morgan Freeman's brief introductory and concluding voice-over narration coming courtesy of a voice manipulation machine), this is a comedic misfire of epic proportions where an out of control creative ego has gone unchecked without someone wise enough to point everything out that's misguided and just plain wrong. "The Love Guru" rates as a 2 out of 10.




Reviewed June 17, 2008 / Posted June 20, 2008


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