Love stinks – blame My­ers

THE LOVE GURU Di­rected by Marco Schn­abel. Star­ring Mike My­ers, Jes­sica Alba, Justin Tim­ber­lake, Ro­many Malco, Mea­gan Good, Omad Djalili, Verne Troyer, Ben Kings­ley

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MICHAEL DWYER

re­lease, 86 min

15A cert, gen WHAT IS it with comic ac­tors af­ter they achieve a cer­tain level of star­dom? Ed­die Mur­phy and Mike My­ers came to promi­nence on the satir­i­cal US TV se­ries Satur­day Night Live, and both af­firmed their dis­tinc­tive comic flair in their early movies. In re­cent years, Mur­phy and My­ers have en­joyed their most sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess off-screen, as voiceover artistes in the Shrek fran­chise.

How­ever, in their live-ac­tion movies both seem to have lost the plot when it comes to screen com­edy – and to have con­fused it with van­ity ve­hi­cles that most eu­phemisti­cally could be de­scribed as self-in­dul­gent. It has been five years since My­ers last ap­peared in a movie, the wretched Dr Seuss adap­ta­tion The Cat in the Hat, and af­ter all that time, all he can of­fer is The Love Guru which, to be char­i­ta­ble, could have been writ­ten in less than five hours.

The screen­play ap­pears to have been pred­i­cated on the as­sump­tion that some au­di­ences (specif­i­cally, teenage boys, a key de­mo­graphic in movie mar­ket­ing) are so in­dis­crim­i­nat­ing that they will rel­ish any com­edy as long as it la­dles out jokes about sex, pe­nis size and toi­let func­tions.

The old Carry On movies are a model of wit, sub­tlety and so­phis­ti­ca­tion com­pared to The Love Guru, and the blame lies with My­ers, its co-pro­ducer and co-writer, who plays sev­eral roles – one, briefly, as him­self – and hogs the screen as the tire­some cen­tral char­ac­ter, Guru Pitka, who was born in the US, raised in In­dia and churns out vol­umes of bland self-help guides.

Pitka is ad­vised that he can re­alise his life’s am­bi­tion, to ap­pear on Oprah Win­frey’s chat show, if he in­spires a Toronto ice hockey player (Ro­many Malco) to re­gain the com­pet­i­tive edge, which he lost when emas­cu­lated by women: his dom­i­neer­ing mother and his wife, who has left him for a ri­val team mem­ber, a Québé­cois goalie. The movie’s sole bear­able fea­ture is Justin Tim­ber­lake’s mildly amus­ing, self-ef­fac­ing per­for­mance as the mous­ta­chioed goalie, a Cé­line Dion ad­mirer who is nick­named Le Coq for rea­sons all too heavy-hand­edly ob­vi­ous from his un­der­wear scenes.

John Oliver (from The Daily Show) plays Pitka’s man­ager, who is named Dick Pants. Verne Troyer (Mini-Me in the Austin Pow­ers se­ries) is cast as Coach Cherkov, who is the butt of nu­mer­ous fee­ble gags about his diminu­tive stature. And Ben Kings­ley slums it as the blind, flat­u­lent Guru Tug­gin­my­pudha in what may well be the most em­bar­rass­ing per­for­mance in his­tory from an Os­car-win­ning ac­tor.

None of the cast is more ir­ri­tat­ing than My­ers, who wears a cheesy, too-ea­ger-to-please smile through­out his con­de­scend­ing pic­ture. What passes for the thread­bare screen­play amounts to no more than a slap­dash se­ries of hope­lessly un­funny sketches strung to­gether with con­tempt for any viewer who’s not rolling in the aisles when ele­phants mate on a red car­pet dur­ing a hockey game, or at a duel in which the weapons are urine-soaked mops.

My­ers pads out the pic­ture with cringe-in­duc­ing mu­si­cal num­bers, per­form­ing Dolly Par­ton’s 9 to 5 and Ex­treme’s More Than Words while ac­com­pa­ny­ing him­self on the sitar. There are point­less cameos from ac­tors such as Val Kilmer and Jes­sica Simp­son play­ing them­selves, but My­ers, again show­ing no con­fi­dence in his au­di­ence’s intelligence, la­bo­ri­ously in­tro­duces each by name.

The most se­ri­ous prob­lem with My­ers and Mur­phy as their ca­reers go head­long down­hill is that no­body – not even the stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives who fund their movies and pay them huge salaries – ap­pears to be will­ing to tell them that their ma­te­rial is just not funny. Or else the ac­tors are too self-ab­sorbed to lis­ten.

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