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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

The Love Guru (review)

Holy Shit

It’s not enough, these days, if you want to make a stupid, crass, juvenile movie, to merely be stupid, crass, and juvenile: Everyone’s doing that, and a filmmaker wants to distinguish himself, right? So here we have the next step — actually several giant next steps — in taking movies to levels so new and so base that they stand apart… though only by making other stupid, crass, juvenile movies look good by comparison.
There’s little point in complaining, for instance, that The Love Guru is positively infested with toilet humor, with “jokes” about “taking a dump” or checking nostrils for boogers, with nonstop references to the male sexual organ apparently aimed at those who are unfamiliar with its general characteristics and several uses. (There’s a quote for the posters: “If you think penises are funny, then you will LOVE The Love Guru!”–FlickFilosopher.com.) That’s just par for the course these days at the multiplex. You’re getting a little closer to the new low here if you ask, pondering one of the movie’s many imponderables, “How can a man wearing a metal chastity belt get punched in the nuts?”

You’re getting a whole tone closer when you note that The Love Guru makes you feel sorry for a beautiful but dim starlet like Jessica Alba (The Eye, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer), who never met a dumb movie she didn’t love and has never seemed in the least embarrassed by any of them till now; or that you’re rather relieved for poor Justin Timberlake (Black Snake Moan, Alpha Dog), who is all but unrecognizable here under a bad wig and moustache, because he might actually a smidge of talent, and it’d be a shame if he were tarred and feathered with this atrocity, which isn’t his fault.

Here’s the thing: The Love Guru isn’t merely endlessly crude: it’s also dishonest and contemptuous of itself. And thank you so much, Mike Myers, for making me have to concede that there’s something nice to be said about many of the other recent movies rife with poop jokes and adolescent terror of all things sexual: at least they were honest about it. But Guru doesn’t even believe in itself. All those other idiot movies are at least genuine in their mission to be stupid, crass, and juvenile. Guru resorts to tittering over penises fully aware that it has nothing else to offer, even though it would like to, and is hoping you won’t notice while you’re tittering over penises.

Myers’ Guru Pitka — who’s supposed to be America’s No. 2 self-help sage, after Deepak Chopra — doesn’t ring true in any sense of the word, even as the protagonists of dumb comedies go. I mean: I’m no fan of Chopra (who appears here in a brief cameo), but he at least seems like he believes what he says, and it’s easy to see why he has fans. But you’d have to be a lobotomized squirrel to find anything meaningful or uplifting in Pitka… yet we’re supposed to accept that this is the case for millions of Pitka’s fans. Pitka introduces the movie by telling us this will be the story about “my most resistant student who became my greatest teacher… or some such bullshit.” Myers (Shrek the Third, The Cat in the Hat) — who wrote the script with Graham Gordy — is telling us right there not to believe a word of any of this, that it’s all a joke… though not in the way that it’s meant to be a joke. If they can’t even be bothered to take themselves seriously — and comedy is certainly serious business, or should be, if it’s going to work — then why should we?

Pitka is all nonstop sexual innuendo and not a whit of spirituality, not even phony spirituality — he doesn’t even pretend to be what his fans are supposed to believe he is. (Not that I’m suggesting you can’t be sexy and spiritual, but Pitka isn’t.) He’s Austin Powers disguised as a guru, not an actual guru. Powers, for all his ridiculousness, is believable, is genuine, which is why Powers’ randiness is fun and charming: he doesn’t think there’s anything dirty or wrong about sex. And still, Powers going undercover as a guru might be funny — he would be different than Pitka is, because, for one, he might actually appreciate the need not to be harping on about penises all the time.

But Powers’ randiness in the hands of an actual guru is icky, partly because Pitka thinks he’s being dirty and does it anyway, the way small children use swear words in order to shock their parents. Actually, Pitka is even ickier, in that way that pedophile priests are particularly wrong — and Myers’ simpering and leering as Pitka is truly disturbing. It’s not even as if Pitka’s obsession with the scatological were his path to transcendence.. which could be funny, too, if it were done right. It’s that there’s absolutely nothing transcendent about Pitka at all. Yet the movie keeps insisting that there is.

Oh, there is absolutely nothing transcendent about anything here. The movie subverts its own jokes: Pitka’s mantra and blessing is “Mariska Hargitay,” which might be funny if the movie didn’t actually feature the actress in a cameo as herself, which makes you go, “Wait, so all of Pitka’s followers know that they’re using an actress’s name as their mantra?” The movie is disjointed, and yet thank god it is, because it’s shorter than it would have been had Myers and first-time director Marco Schnabel attempted to tell the coherent or narratively connected story they think they’re telling. And yet the movie, though only 87 minutes long, is horrendously padded out, with Myers and Schnabel choosing to go with pointless jokes unconnected to anything except, hey! they get to use the word diarrhea and suggest that Jessica Alba had a lesbian experience in college.

Cuz, you know, what else could a spiritual guru possibly have to talk about?


MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb

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