The Love Guru

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The Love Guru

Release Date: June 20
Director: Marco Schnabel
Writer: Mike Myers, Graham Gordy
Cinematographer: Peter Deming
Starring: Mike Myers, Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, Romany Malco and Ben Kingsley
Studio/Run Time: Paramount Pictures, 88 mins.

Fans of Mike Myers, especially those of us who know how inconsistent his movies can be, felt a certain kind of hope after seeing the trailer for his latest film. Unfortunately, it wasn't the good kind; it was a nervous hope that the studio, for reasons unknown, had left the funny parts out of the ads. The Love Guru, featuring Myers' first new character since Austin Powers, looked like a dud.

The bad news is that they didn't omit the funny parts. The jokes in the movie are just as dumb as the ones in the trailer, but what doesn't come across in a two-minute preview is just how many there are. The Love Guru is an avalanche of dirty puns, testicle jokes, booger gags, poop references and dwarf-themed slapstick. What it lacks in ingenuity it makes up for, almost, in sheer volume.

Myers plays Guru Pitka, a bearded and bubbly self-help expert who wants to be the next Deepak Chopra, which means he needs to appear on Oprah, which means he needs to mend the marriage of a star hockey player to secure an invitation to the show. It's a pop-culture Rube Goldberg machine.

An American raised by a guru in India, Pitka never stops laughing at his own jokes, even when they float like lead balloons, but what looks at first like Myers' insufferable mugging eventually becomes a kind of giddy tenacity. It's one thing to tell an awful joke and cock your eyebrow as if it's funny, but it's quite another to keep telling one every 30 seconds for an hour and a half. It takes a boundless type of energy, not the kind that powers vehicles or solves problems, but an energy that can't be easy to generate.

It's hard to give the film credit for not dwelling on something stupid, because each bit that it zips past is followed by one just as dumb, but nothing in the film mars the reputations of Stephen Colbert, Justin Timberlake, Verne Troyer, The Daily Show's John Oliver, or an extremely (and perhaps digitally) cross-eyed Ben Kingsley. They plunge forward with gusto and emerge with grins. Jessica Alba isn't particularly funny, but she isn't asked to be. She's asked to be pretty. Mission accomplished.

The Love Guru isn't Mike Myers' finest moment, and stooping so low for so long may look back-breakingly cynical to some eyes, a sure sign of civilization's collapse. This is what grownups are willing to do to sell tickets to 13-year-olds? But The Love Guru isn't the disaster it could have been. At the very least, it's weirder and less predictable than Get Smart, the special-effects comedy from Steve Carrell also opening this weekend.

The Love Guru begins with Myers singing "9 to 5" arranged for sitar and ends with his cover of Steve Miller's "The Joker." In between are two elephants copulating on a hockey rink, a little man falling on his butt, a PowerPoint presentation of vulgar acronyms, and Myers dancing like he's in a Baptist choir. I can't explain why "some people call me Mau-rice" made me grin as I headed for the exit. I pretended like I was coughing, naturally, but now the truth must be told.

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