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
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.