Mike Myers goofs it old-school with “The Love Guru,” his first non-Shrek role in ages, a film that flies in the face of all that is Apatow in today's screen comedy.
It's vintage Myers, with an outrageous, broadly played character borrowed from Peter Sellers, silly makeup, bad puns, innuendo, the occasional pause for song and dance and Myers' ongoing obsession with little people. But is there still a place in filmgoers' funny bones for winking farce in an age of raunchy, explicit “Nerd gets the girl” laughers such as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Knocked Up”?
Here, the Canadian cutup taps into America's yen for spiritual advisers, from Dr. Phil to Oprah to his old friend Deepak Chopra in a punny put-on about an American born guru (Myers) trying to crack the saturated U.S. guru market. Wearing a beard, sporting a Canadian-by-way-of-Calcutta accent, Myers' Guru Pitka is all about riding catchphrases and pithy acronyms to happiness.
“Guru: Gee, yoU aRe yoU.” “Intimacy: Into ME, I SEE.” “You must go from ‘Nowhere' to ‘Now HERE!'”
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Pitka is “The Love Guru,” a master at teaching people to love themselves so that they can love others. He is a font of advice, always in bumper-sticker-size bites – “The only way out, is IN.”
Pitka was given wisdom and a chastity belt by his cross-eyed guru with an obscene pun for a name (Ben Kingsley). But when the star of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), needs his marriage saved so that he can play well enough to win the Stanley Cup, Pitka has his chance. Fame, an even greater fortune and a guest spot on Oprah all await. All he has to do is get Roanoke's wife out of the clutches of L.A. Kings goalie Jacques Grande, played with crotch-coddling verve by Justin Timberlake.
Maybe Pitka will find love, too, seeing as how the owner of the Leafs is played by Jessica Alba (up to the task), the object of Pitka's adorable Bollywood song-and-dance musical fantasies.
Myers winks at the camera, plays “Nine to Five,” “More Than Words” and “The Joker” on a sitar and torments the Leafs' Mini Me coach (Verne Troyer).
“Take it easy, Frodo!”
Like Adam Sandler, Myers is still making broad, low PG-13 character comedies that play like extended “Saturday Night Live” sketches in the tradition of “Wayne's World” and “Hot Rod.” But Judd Apatow has upped the ante, with his raunchier and more realistic romantic romps. So while “The Love Guru,” like Sandler's slightly weaker (and much longer) “Zohan,” hurls a lot of comedy against the screen (much of it sticking), it still can feel old-fashioned.
Myers shamelessly steals from himself. Stephen Colbert's cameo as a druggie sportscaster basically sentences him to his TV show for life. Ben Kingsley's turn is alternately hilarious and humiliating. And Chopra and Oprah make appearances and are treated with such reverence that you wonder if Myers has been addicted to self-help TV since “The Cat in the Hat.”
There's wit and sweetness mixed with the bodily function gags, enough to make us hope that Myers stops cashing those Shrek checks and re-joins the comic rat race. Apatow's over-long cannabis-and-carnality romps are wearing out their welcome.
And Mike, those Shrek cartoons lead “Nowhere,” man. Better to be “now here,” don't you think?