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Feel the Love? Sort of

By Philip Martin

This article was published June 20, 2008 at 4:23 a.m.

guru-tugginmypudha-ben-kingsley-shows-off-his-tattooed-acronym-in-the-love-guru

Guru Tugginmypudha (Ben Kingsley) shows off his tattooed acronym in The Love Guru.

— Vulgar, crude and at times inspired, Mike Myers' The Love Guru is a character-driven anarchic comedy that reaches back to the 1960s work of Peter Sellers and the joke-a-minute sight-gag-heavy shtick of Zucker Brothers movies like Airplane! You might not entirely approve of it, but you'll likely laugh.

Maybe not at every third-grade observation or groin punch, but if you've any fondness for the kind of crude and randy idiots Myers has specialized in since his days on Saturday Night Live (basement broadcaster Wayne Campbell, thawed-out doubleaught Austin Powers) then you might appreciate his Guru Pitka, a New Age spiritualist peddling a wonderfully vague embrace-yourself philosophy to a complicit celebrity clientele eager to have their self-approval validated.

But unlike most Hollywood Holy Men, Guru Pitka is neither charlatan nor hypocrite - although his childish giggle and adolescent bawdiness is reminiscent of John Lennon's "Sexy Sadie" characterization of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's alleged pursuit of Mia Farrow. The signature "T.M." Pitka attaches to all his catch phrases and acronyms - "B.I.B.L.E. :Basic Instructions Before Leaving Planet Earth" - could stand for Transcendental Meditation as well as Trade Mark.

Directed by first-timer Marco Schnabel, who served as director Jay Roach's assistant on Myers' Austin Powers movies, and co-written (and associateproduced) by Conway native Graham Gordy, there's no doubt whatsoever that The Love Guru is a product of Myers' particular - and somewhat polarizing - comic sensibility. It's not a film that commands a lot of thought or introspection. You either take it or shrug (involuntary shudder) it off.

Yet for a film that requires so little of its audience, there's quite a lot of attention to detail in The Love Guru. While the plot is so disposable as to be non-existent - Pitka is hired by the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jessica Alba) to help star player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) recover his lost mojo and lead the team to the Stanley Cup - the specifics of the milieu are consistently surreal. Justin Timberlake's Quebecois goalie Jacques "Le Coq" Grande's mansion is defended by a guard rooster, Pitka travels primarily by pachyderm and the Leafs' coach is portrayed by tiny Myers foil Verne "Mini Me" Troyer, whose office is reminiscent of the half-floor office in Being John Malkovich.

While nonstop puns will leave you groaning, there is enough sweetness and even the kernel of a moral in this ultimately harmless (except to Sir Ben Kingsley's dignity) movie. A couple of Bollywood take-offs are well done and at 90 minutes, the movie doesn't overstay its welcome. Myers obviously cares about this character, and he's remarkably gentle with the easy target that is the American self-help industry. (Deepak Chopra appears as himself as Pitka's chief rival and ispresented as spiritual mensch.)

That's not to suggest the movie isn't offensive; some people will cringe and avert their eyes at some of the bodily functionbased gags. Myers has often - and aptly - described his brand of comedy as smart people doing dumb jokes. You might look at this movie and see a lot of talent in service to low humor. But chances are, you'll be laughing too hard to notice.

MovieStyle, Pages 35, 40 on 06/20/2008

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