From the moment I first heard Mike Meyer's new film "The Love Guru" and Steve Carell's new film "Get Smart" would be released on the same day, I was surprised. Common practice in Hollywood dictates you don't release two such similar films on the same day. At best, you are going to split the audience, and both films could suffer. This seems to have been born out by the box office, with "The Love Guru" suffering.
Because both films were released on the same day, I decided to see both, back to back. And I am going to write about both, back to back.
The Love Guru ***
Get Smart **
I really get the sense Mike Meyer's is trying to channel the spirit of Peter Sellers. Consciously or not, he has created two characters with more than a few similarities to some of Sellers' most famous creations. Austin Powers has more than a few things in common with Inspector Clouseau and now the Guru Pitka has more than a few things in common with Harundai V. Bakshi, Sellers character in the less well-known Blake Edward's film "The Party". Meyers is a talented guy, a funny guy, who seems to obsess over every detail in his films. Sellers was, reportedly, the same way. While Sellers' characters will continue to endure the test of time, we don't know if the more modern Meyer's work will have the same outcome. It's too early to tell.
Meyer's "The Love Guru" is a silly film. From the moment I first saw the trailer, I laughed, a lot. Filled with silly, "Austin Powers"-esque comedy, there were a lot of jokes packed in that trailer and the movie delivers more of the same.
The movie is very silly and packed with jokes, many of which work and many of which don't. The jokes fly fast and furious, and Meyers certainly tries very hard to get the audience to laugh. I half expected someone to throw a cream pie at Meyers. But there is also the smack of familiarity to many of the jokes. They could easily have been trans planted into "Austin Powers 4" and provided the same laughs. It also seems odd that Verne Troyer is also in the new film, playing a different character, but his presence makes the comparisons to Austin Powers all the more prevalent. And many of the jokes concerning his character revolve around the same humor Mini-Me elicited in the Powers films.
If anything is to be learned from Meyer's comedy, he loves midgets and fart jokes, both providing equal opportunity for laughs.
Meyers has done a lot of interviews and in many he has mentioned the profound impact the death of his father had on his life. This led him to meet Depak Chopra, the very famous guru and self-help coach who has apparently provided Meyers with a lot of guidance. "The Love Guru" tells the story of Guru Pitka, the Number Two guru in the United States, behind Deepak Chopra. Pitka desperately wants to become Number One and the Toronto Maple Leafs provide him with an opportunity, their star goalie Darren Roanoake (Romany Malco, "The 40 Year Old Virgin") has broken up with his wife Prudence (Meagan Good) and is not playing well. With the Stanley Cup around the corner, the team's owner, Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), hires Pitka to bring Roanoke and Prudence back together. Naturally, there are complications. Pitka finds himself attracted to Jane and Prudence is dating the star goalie for the Los Angeles Kings, a Celine Dion-loving Canadian, Jacques "The Cock" Grande (Justin Timberlake).
Meyers lets the jokes fly fast and furious; from the opening frames when we hear narration by Morgan Freeman, to the Guru Pitka's constant use of bad trademarked sayings, the film has a lot of laughs. But Meyers is also dependent on scatological humor and there are a lot of jokes involving farts, bowel movements, accidents and more, jokes too silly for even this film.
"The Love Guru" suffers from a number of small problems. The first is the humor throughout the film is so juvenile; it is extremely hit and miss. Everyone can only take so many fart jokes or jokes about 'messing your pants'. The other thing I found odd about the film is that at a couple of key moments, they don't go far enough with the ideas. Early on, Pitka remembers a key moment in his life and we watch it much like a Bollywood film, complete with scratches and film burn. This is a great idea and only reinforces the wackiness of the story and the idea, but it only lasts a few moments. At the end of the film, Pitka claims "I want to dance" and a Bollywood musical number begins in a small seaside village. Jessica Alba dances out, his assistant becomes a part of the entourage, even Verne Troyer takes part. This is a moment, much like the end of "The 40 Year Old Virgin", when you would expect all of the characters to join in and start dancing in a highly synchronized way to an American rock song, in this case "The Rocker". But the dance number only involves the few characters mentioned and only lasts a few seconds. It seems like they ran out of money and simply had to get what they could.
Also, I have seen a number of films recently in which well-known comedians play Sports Commentators (most of these star Will Farell as he seems to have the lock on this franchise, "Semi-Pro", "Blades of Glory"). In "The Love Guru", Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan play hockey commentators and they suffer from the same fate as the others; they simply aren't funny. Each of these characters is decidedly "wacky", and says "off-color" things, and tries to act like they are weird and funny. But in each of these films, the characters look like they are trying to act weird and funny and this does little than to slow down the rest of the story.
It is amusing that Meyers is making fun of something so ripe for parody. But he also takes aim at the very type of thing Chopra has risen above, making his character a more desperate version of someone like Chopra. It works, but not all the time.