In the six years since “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” the last film that Mike Myers conceived and headlined, his obsession with penises has not diminished. If anything, as “The Love Guru” demonstrates, the obsession has only grown stronger. Also especially prized by Myers: jokes about urine, poop, and testicles. The more juvenile, the better!
Yet there are also moments in “The Love Guru” that are wildly inventive and absurdly funny. He and his writing partner, Graham Gordy, conceive all manner of convoluted wordplay and surprising sight gags (staged by first-time director Marco Schnabel), including some that are amusing if only for their out-of-nowhereness. Why begin with a musical number in which an Indian guru sings “9 to 5”? Well, why not?
The combination of depressingly sophomoric and genuinely witty humor makes “Love Guru” a mixed bag, to say the least — but it’s much better than I expected, and not nearly as awful as the film’s trailers (and Myers’ embarrassing in-character public appearances) have made it look. Believe me, I’m as surprised as you are that I wound up sort of enjoying it.
Myers plays Guru Pitka, an Indian-born self-help superstar second only to Deepak Chopra in popularity. With a mantra of “mariska hargitay,” he travels the world dispensing touchy-feely advice at sold-out seminars, where suckers fall for faux-deep linguistic tricks like “Instead of being ‘nowhere,’ I’ll teach you to be ‘now, here.'” Oooh, heavy.
Pitka has written a number of bestselling books with titles like “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Think Again,” and his specialty is helping people with their relationships. His services are called for when Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), star player for the Toronto Maple Leafs, loses his wife to a rival player and goes into a professional slump. Can Guru Pitka get Darren and the missus back together in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs?
The cuckolding fellow hockey star is Jacques “Le Coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake), a doofy Celine Dion-loving Quebecois nerd who has wooed away Mrs. Roanoke (Meagan Good) with his superior physical gifts. Those gifts are the subject of many, many jokes, few of them funny, except insofar as Justin Timberlake — who has more than adequately proven his comedy skills on “SNL” — imbues the character with unself-conscious glee.
Less successful at providing laughs are Jessica Alba, who can neither act nor be funny but who plays the owner of the Maple Leafs; and regular Myers abuse victim Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer, who plays the team’s tiny coach. I guess work is work, but why would you keep performing in movies where the whole point is to humiliate you?
Myers is the focal point of most of the film, and there’s no question the operation runs out of steam halfway through, if not sooner. Guru Pitka is not as inherently hilarious a character as Myers thinks he is, and the story is scarcely more than an outline. But once again, there are those gem-like moments of inspired comedy that make it worthwhile. The occasional scenes with Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan as sportscasters chronicling the Leafs’ fortunes are unfailingly well-written and sharply performed. If Myers ever employs that kind of discipline again — less mugging, more focus — he might someday recapture the glory of the first Austin Powers movie. Until then, here’s this uneven but funny production.
B- (1 hr., 26 min.; )