Love Guru, The

Basically a sketch stretched to the limits of a feature-length feature, Mike Myers' “The Love Guru,” is a shallow, repetitive, self-indulgent comedy, in which the actor also serves as his best audience, wearing a perpetual smile and laughing at his own jokes, perhaps aware that if he doesn't, not many would.

Reaching middle-age, the gifted and likeable Myers has become a lazy star who has not made a real movie in a long time. With the exception of voicing the title character of the enormously popular animated franchise “Shrek,” he has not given any significant performances. Long-time passivity and reflection can lead to burst of creativity, injection of energy into one's career, but not in the case of Myers, who at this point seems stuck with creating comic characters and then trying to insert them in loose narrative structures. Such was the case of the “Austin Powers” series, which ran out of ideas in the second chapter but continued to a third one. And such may be the case of his new screen creation, Guru Pitka, a.k.a. the “Love Guru, nominally directed by Schnabel, but bearing the signature of Myers in each and every frame.

According to the production notes, “Love Guru” is a personal film, or at least its origins are autobiographical. Grieving after the loss of his father, Myers embarked on a serious personal spiritual quest that led him to gurus and ashrams and then unexpectedly full circle back to comedy, his specialized genre. As creator, Myers also sees in his new comedy his beloved Toronto Maples Leafs hockey team actually have a winning seasonhe says, Its one of the great pains in my life that they havent won the Stanley Cup since 1967–and the chance to shoot on the ice at the Air Canada Center, where every Saturday he watched them playing.

“Love Guru” is another “origin” tale, depicting how Guru Pitka became the worlds second-best guru and how he now yearns to take the crown from his outrageously famous chief rival, the real-life Deepak Chopra, by getting involved in professional sports and celebrity romance.

We learn that Pitka was once an “ordinary” American child, until his family left him at the gates of an Indian ashram to be raised by the Guru Tugginmypuddha (Ben Kingsley). Growing up in the small fishing village of Harenmahkeester, Pitka was schooled in the inner secrets of spiritual attainment along with his friend and sole rival, Deepak Chopra. But whereas Chopra is a huge celeb in America, Pitka is still playing second-fiddle without even an Oprah episode on his resume.

Determined to share his insights into the nature of life and get famous to boot, Pitka responds to a fateful call for help from Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. Jane complains that her star player, Darren Roanoke has gone overnight from being a big hero to a big zero-scorer because his wife Prudence (Good) had left him and is now dating the L.A. Kings legendary goalie, Jacques Le Coq Grande (Justin Timberlake, sporting a ridiculous accent and even more ridiculous outfits).

Pitkas new quest–to restore loving bliss between Darren and Prudence and attain the heights of the Stanley Cup–challenges everything he thought he knew about the inner workings of truth, love, happiness, and hockey.

In Myers' vision, gurus like Gary Zukav and Deepak Chopra are funny men, modern-day prophets with plenty of folklore to share with their public. Myers quotes as his inspiration Steve Martin's belief that, “the most exciting thing to do is to find comedy where comedy hadnt existed before,” claiming that he loved “the idea of bringing irony and humor to the human search for happiness and love. Approaching the material as a mixture of satire and inspiration, Myers hopes that it would allow him to explore significant existential issues, deluding himself that he makes profound statements by treating them in a silly way.

For Myers, humor represents humanitys way of escaping deep suffering, which is fine, but he fails to realize that bad, repetitious humor inflicts another kind of sufferingtedious boredom–on the audience. I wish Myers applied his self-avowed philosophy to his picture: “As an old-school entertainer, I see it as a huge responsibility to ask people to sit in the dark for 90 minutes, so I always want to make sure theres lots of entertainment–dance numbers, comedy, drama.

“Love Guru” is anything but a combo of these elements. The best element of his plotless comedy is its running time, 88 minutes, including credits. Slim in ideas and undernourished in many other ways, the text is no more than a string of sketches hung on a shaky branch that threatens to collapseand almost doesat any moment. Lacking narrative or comedic momentum, the movie is such a mess that you could rearrange the contents in any way you wantlike putting the middle in the beginningand no one would notice, not even Myers.

Yet another variation of Myers' “irreverent” way of taking unconventional fish-out-of-water characters to some extremes, “Love Guru” is spoofing a world that he finds alternately intriguing and outrageous, a milieu where enduring ancient questions about the nature of life gets superficial treatment, expressed in play of words, his unique vocabulary, and his idiosyncratic rhythm of delivering it.

The movie is so shallow and silly that I refuse to take it seriously and deconstruct it as a dangerously stereotypical comedy. Though I have no doubts it will has a strong opening weekend at the box-office, ultimately, “Love Guru” should have such a short, fast playout that it won't have even time to stir controversy, following in the footsteps of Adam Sandler's “You Don't Mess With the Zohan,” another formulaic, stereotypical comedy, albeit slightly funnier than Myers'.

How did the character emerge Donning a purposefully fake beard, mysterious accent and guru get-up, Myers went to several New York theaters, where he offered Guru Pitkas deliciously unhinged dharma lecture, a whimsical montage of non-denominational advice, turning his creation into an instant hit among those early New York audiences.

For better or worse, Myers is not totally responsible for the film: He collaborated on the scenario with Graham Gordy, hoping that his younger colleague would bring a hipper incarnation of the character to the screen, just as he had done with earlier improvised character, “Austin Powers.” Jointly, they try but essentially fail to turn cosmic sutras into slapstick comedy.

While Guru Pitka is caught up in comical situations, including his own spot of love trouble, he's also unwittingly hurtling towards both romantic and spiritual revelations of his own. Underneath this mess, you can detect the filmmakers' intent to depict a moral journey that progresses from a shallow celebrity to a purer existence based on decency, honesty, and other basic values. Pitka begins with some good ideas but hes strayed from helping people to just wanting the accolades. Turning point occurs, when he is faced with his most resistant student ever, hockey player Darren Roanoke, forcing him to live by the rules he had written. In the process, he's transformed from an all-knowing teacher to a humble, open-minded student.

Blending satirical riffs from various movie genres, such as sports dramas, biopics, and romantic comedies, stylistically, “Love Guru” pretends to be, while also mocking, a full-scale Bollywood musical, with a big, colorful dance sequence at the end.