It's been quite a while since we last saw funnyman Mike Myers in front of the camera. The Austin Powers star has kept a relatively low profile since his last live-action flick, 2003's dreadful The Cat in the Hat, left audiences confused, disturbed and perhaps a little frightened. In the last five years, Myers' film work has been limited exclusively to off-screen work -- as the voice of the titular green ogre in Dreamworks' blockbuster Shrek franchise.
But that doesn't mean he hasn't been busy. Myers asserts that he's spent much of his spare time making unscheduled stops at comedy clubs, fine-tuning a new character known as Guru Pitka, the new-age relationship expert at the center of his latest comedy, The Love Guru.
If only the fruits of those labors were more apparent on-screen.
Deliberately aping the David Carradine Kung Fu narrative, The Love Guru casts its protagonist as a white boy sent to India for spiritual schooling. Under the guidance of the renowned Guru Tugginmypudha, (a flatulent, cross-eyed Ben Kingsley), he learns the ins and outs of crafting clever catch-phrases and new-age acronyms like D.R.A.M.A. (Distraction, Regression, Adjustment, Maturity and Action).
Upon completing his studies, Pitka leaves India to set up shop in Hollywood, where he applies his tools into building a commercial self-help empire second only to that of reigning celebrity spiritual advisor Deepak Chopra, of whom he's deeply envious.
Yearning to surpass his one-time schoolmate, Pitka receives his big shot at Chopra-level greatness when the owner of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs (an unremarkable Jessica Alba) enlists his aid in reuniting the team's slumping star player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco, looking confused) with his estranged wife Prudence (a sufficiently hot Meagan Good), whose torrid affair with a rival player, flamboyant goalkeeper Jacque "Le Cocque" Grande (an admirably game Justin Timberlake), has caused Roanoke's once-great game to nosedive. If Pitka can successfully play the matchmaker, he'll earn the prize every catch-phrase-peddling television therapist covets more than anything else: an appearance on Oprah.
The plot, as in most of Myers' movies, is largely ancillary, of course. In the case of The Love Guru, it mainly serves to provide its star with fodder to work his comedy magic -- the bulk of which is devoted to penis and/or little person jokes (courtesy of perennial Myers castmate Verne Troyer). Not that I necessarily have a problem with that. But The Love Guru devotes a good 70% of its material to those two subjects, leading to a severe case of midget/phallus overkill. (The remaining 30% of the comedy, for those of you keeping track, is largely scatological in nature.)
I would say that The Love Guru is disappointing, but the flick's dismal trailer lowered my expectations to such a degree that disappointment was rendered all but impossible. There is, however, reason for hope. For all of its odd, painfully unfunny sequences, The Love Guru boasts as many as a dozen bona fide laugh-out-loud moments -- proof that Myers, unlike too many of his former SNL counterparts, is still capable of bringing the funny. He just didn't bring enough of it to The Love Guru.
Disagree? Let me know at tleupp@Reelz.com