Comedies don’t usually come with the kind of baggage that is dogging The Love Guru. It hits theatres cursed with a trailer only a mother could love, negative babble from bloggers and fighting against the strong reactions of Hindus, who, in India called for the film to be banned. Is the movie worth all the fuss? As the Guru Pitka himself might tell the naysayers, “To be enlightened you must first lighten up.”
The Love Guru is an extremely silly comedy that features jokes so old many were likely originally written in Sanskrit centuries ago, but it is so relentlessly upbeat, so good natured—and at 88 minutes, mercifully short—that it makes up in exuberance what it lacks in originality or actual laughs.
In the film self-help expert Guru Pitka (Mike Myers)—an orphaned American raised by gurus in an ashram in India—is hired by Toronto Maple Leafs owner Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba) and Coach Cherkov (Verne Troyer) to reunite star hockey player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) and his estranged wife (Meagan Good). It seems after their split Roanoke’s wife took up with a rival, L.A. Kings star goalie Jacques “Le Coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake), and the thought of the two of them together has sent the Maple Leaf into a tailspin both personally and professionally. Pitka must work his mojo on Roanoke and his wife before the beginning of the Stanley Cup Finals if the Leafs have a chance at breaking the 40-year-old “Bullard Curse” and winning the championship.
The Love Guru will bring a smile to your face from time to time, and maybe even a few laughs but the comedy world has changed since Myers last unveiled a new character. In a movie landscape populated by Judd Apatow comedies, movies based in the real world with real world situations and laughs, The Love Guru seems antiquated, like a relic from a different time. It’s broad, anything-for-a-laugh ethos has more to do with Benny Hill than Seth Rogen—another Canadian vying for the King of Comedy crown—and feels about as relevant as a Carry On movie.
The structure of the movie and many of the jokes and situations seem familiar, as though they have been borrowed from Austin Powers and retooled for Guru Pitka. That sense of familiarity with the jokes may be a comfort to some viewers who might see it as a “greatest hits” repackaging of their old favorite jokes, but I was left with a strange sense of déjà vu, as though I had seen it all before, and it was funnier the last time.
Myers is never any less than 100% committed to the role, and his devotion to the character is obvious. He’s in it to win it, but the outrageousness of the character is overwhelmed by an endless stream (no pun intended) of urination and bathroom humor, short gags at the expense of 32-inch co-star Verne Troyer and penis jokes. The humor here can only be described as shameless and juvenile, but if the idea of two elephants having very public sex amuses you, then The Love Guru may be perfect for you.
In an unusual marketing move The Love Guru is being released opposite Steve Carell in Get Smart. The big studios usually try and avoid opening two similar movies on the same weekend but here are two of comedy’s biggest stars going head-to-head. Both films have their virtues; both are retro—Get Smart is based on a 60s sitcom, The Love Guru’s jokes seem somehow, let’s say, traditional—and both stars have considerable audience goodwill. Which will win out? Perhaps it depends on how enlightened, or not, your comedy tastes are.