When trailers and commercials for Mike Myers first on screen comedy outing in 5 years, critical reaction in our household was one of puzzlement. My wife and I are two of the biggest Mike Myers fans you’ll find. But what’s up with all of the gags lifted out of the three previous Austin Powers movie? And your tacitly making fun of Hinduism? Really? Is that wise? Our stink meters went off.

Turns out we were right. After calls for boycott from leading Hindu groups and a dismal total domestic gross of $32 million, The Love Guru turned out to be the greatest misstep of Mike Myers’ career.

I didn’t see the movie in theaters, but I reserved judgment completely until the film came out on DVD. Deep down I was hoping that there was at least something redeemable about the film. There’s a few things to like about The Love Guru, but a lot more things to hate.

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, Myers plays an American stranded in an Indian orphanage after his parents are killed during missionary work (whatever) and seeks knowledge from Guru Tugginmypudha (played by Ben Kingsley – who apparently has lost the ability to say “no” to anything). Myers takes his spiritual guidance and transforms it into a multi-million dollar self-help empire. But he is dissatisfied because he is still number two compared to Deepak Chopra.

As the Guru Pitka, Myers is difficult to like. He speaks in platitudes hidden inside verbal riddles (“Intimacy: Or ‘Into Me, I see.” “What is the Bible except ‘B.asic I.nstructions B.efore L.eaving E.arth?”) Anyone who gets suckered into this kind of spiritual guidance needs all the self-help they can get.

Compounding the problem. Guru Pitka does not demonstrate any of the behaviors of a supposed Holy Man. When opportunity knocks in the form of Jessica Alba (as the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs) seeking the Guru’s guidance to reunite their star player with his estranged wife, the Guru is not motivated by helping the player. He is motivated by the $2 million he’s being paid and the opportunity to appear on Oprah should he be successful.

Of course there is a third act revelation where the Guru learns the errors of his ways, amends the shortcuts he took toward bringing the couple back together and frees himself from feeling inferior to Deepak Chopra, but it all comes too late. Who wants to spend time with this selfish ass for two hours?

That’s another thing: SEVERAL times in this movie other characters refer to Pitka disparagingly – calling him an ass or a moron – and it’s hard not to disagree. In addition to his spiritual blather, Myers infuses the Guru with an arsenal of playground antics and taunts meant to “regress” uptight squares but are really only effective for bridging the gap with the audience who hazily remember “Oh, yeah. I remember ‘Milk, milk, lemonade – around the corner fudge is made’.”

What makes matters worse is that the only one laughing at any of Pitka’s jokes is Pitka himself. Hooting and sniggering like an exiled villain from the 1960’s Batman TV show, Pitka’s childlike glee isn’t endearing. It’s annoying.

For as grating as the character is, Myers at least plays him enthusiastically. I think Myers still has value as a comedic voice. His problem in this case was convincing himself that audiences would align themselves with his clear preoccupation for Eastern spirituality. But, hey… when you can make a movie about a slacker filming a local access cable show in his basement and a time-displaced Lothario super spy from the ’60s and have them be huge hits, why wouldn’t you think anything was possible?

As far as the rest of the cast goes, they perform amiably. That is, at least as well as they would have in any other comedy of this nature. Justin Timberlake shows up as a French Canadian goalie and the main antagonist. I’m guessing someone told him to approach the role like Pepe Le Pew, because that’s what he sounds like.

Verne Troyer is on hand as a foul-mouthed coach and actually gets to spit lines this time. Beyond that, it’s a cavalcade of cameos from the likes of Jessica Simpson, The Daily Show’s John Oliver, Val Kimer, Mariska Hargitay, Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan.

Personally, I think it’s a shame that Romany Malco as hockey superstar Darren Roanoke can’t find better material to plug into. I’ve enjoyed him in nearly every movie he’s been in and The Love Guru was poised to break him into a wider audience. This is, if the movie were able to draw an audience.

In terms of extra features, the DVD doesn’t skim. But most of them are forgettable. It wasn’t particularly interesting to sit through “One Hellava Elephant,” which spends too much time with the effects supervisor responsible for creating the one-quarter top reproduction of the elephant Mike Myers rides in the film. Nor was it particularly interesting to watch “Hockey Training For Actors,” which details the process in which Malco and Timberlake prepared for their scenes on the ice. The blooper reel is a fair diversion and the deleted scenes and outtakes (while uneven in quality) are sometimes funnier than what was left in!

The best featurette on the DVD is “Back In The Booth With Trent and Jay.” Trent and Jay being the color commentators for the hockey game sequences as played by Jim Gaffigan and Stephen Colbert. The featurette collects their improvisations. Colbert owns the booth with his performance as the drug addicted and relapsing Jay Kell, but Gaffigan gives it right back as the straight man delivering several sharp lines of his own. Would it be too much to ask for a movie starring these two?

Overall The Love Guru lives up to it’s unfortunate reputation. I take no joy in stating that, but it is what it is. Hardcore Mike Myers fans might find a few things to enjoy here. But the rest of us might be better off snuggling up with a copy of Wayne’s World until this all blows over.

↓ Transcript
Theater Hopper reviews The Love Guru on DVD.