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The Love Guru (2008)

The Shame of a Nation

It was hard enough thinking of something interesting to say about The Love Guru before yesterday's Boston Marathon bombing; now it's nearly impossible.

How does a fictitious, kooky mystic's lame comedic struggles with an inferiority complex and a chastity belt compare to a national tragedy that left numerous people dead and disfigured? There are a thousand snarky answers, many of which will become knee-slappers as the years push on and we inevitably forget the horror we're feeling right now.* But there is a legitimate connection:

The marathon is one of mankind's last recognized testaments to its pursuit of excellence. All over the planet, people push their bodies and minds beyond limits most of us don't know we have--for the sole purpose of running 26.2 miles in a single stretch. Armchair athletes and couch potatoes may dismiss these races as "just a bunch of fitness nuts running around the city", but they don't take into account the discipline, long-term commitment, and enlightenment that separate these competitors from half-marathoners or basement-treadmill enthusiasts.

Running is the most solitary, the most Zen, of the competitive sports (besides, I guess, racecar driving--but that's more about the pit crew and the machine than the product pitch-man behind the wheel). Marathoners compete against hundreds of other hungry contestants, but their only real adversary is the clock: they are pursued by their last, best time; the thing guarding the goal at the end of the field is a Frankenstein monster of their own creation, a phantom at best, fashioned by doubt and fatigue. But even the newest runners plow through with an unconscious and un-self-conscious joy that most of us haven't felt since childhood; a joy that comes from running around outside, just for the hell of it.

The greatest truth a runner understands is that rewards must be earned. Endorphins don't kick in until the hard work begins, and there's no greater rush than knowing you are a leaner, more efficient, better version of the You that hadn't yet decided to get moving. There are no shortcuts in the marathon, and all the privilege, special equipment, and press in the world won't magically make a champion out of a wimp.

The same can't be said for Mike Myers, who co-wrote and starred in The Love Guru. I had to turn off this unbearable, 86-minute test of will at the hour mark due to sheer boredom. Personal pride forced me to finish the movie the next day, and I still had to watch the previous 15 minutes to recall the unfunny events that led to my turning it off. I honestly had no idea what had happened, so forgettable was the material.

Myers plays himself playing an Indian stereotype named Guru Pitka. That's problem number one with this flick: not for a second did I see a main character with a distinct persona; it was all just Myers parading around in elaborate robes, spouting aphorisms in a cartoon accent from behind a costume-shop beard. Pitka/Myers' dream in life is to be a more recognizable pop icon than Deepak Chopra--which involves becoming famous enough to appear on Oprah (yes, yes, there are several rhyming name gags in the movie).

Pitka/Myers' agent, Dick Pants (John Oliver), says that if he can get the star player on the Toronto Maple Leafs (Romany Malco) to reunite with his estranged wife (Meagan Goode), the story will make him star-worthy enough for a guest spot on Miss O's couch. Matters get complicated when the Leafs' manager, Jane (Jessica Alba), does...something or other.

Look, there's no point in recounting more plot details here. Justin Timberlake shows up as a well-endowed, French-Canadian goalie (giving Myers and co-writer Graham Gordy ample opportunity to mock both the French and Canadians). The cast brims with random celebrity cameos ranging from Val Kilmer to Kanye West to Mariska Hargitay. But by the time you get to the two elephants humping on the ice during the Stanley Cup finals, any semblance of story has likely washed away like hangover puke down the garbage disposal.

This movie cost $62,000,000 to make. That's a tent-pole movie in 2008 dollars, and I can't believe anyone would let this offensively stale mess out the door. I'd wager most of that cost came from stars' salaries and the ridiculously opulent sets and costumes, but I can't fault the performers or the artisans. Who wouldn't show up for a paycheck with that many zeroes on the end of it? Hell, maybe they had a great time on set. Maybe they actually thought the script was funny. I also can't fault director Marco Schnabel--mostly because there's nothing about his work here to suggest he did anything other than shoot what was on the page. He couldn't help it if the page was covered in shit.

The point of all this is, in light of yesterday's events, I'm having a hard time living in a world where things like The Love Guru are allowed to exist. I should take it as a hopeful sign, perhaps, that the movie was a global failure and all but signaled the end of Myers' career (the occasional Shrek project aside). He can't be held accountable for my feelings regarding an incident that happened five years after his movie came out.

But he should be ashamed for not using his resources and influence to push that great comedic mind beyond the limits of laziness that have plagued his contemporaries for decades. I don't know Myers personally, but I have a hard time believing he would actually watch a movie like The Love Guru--which makes his participation in its creation all the more disgusting; it'd be like Gordon Ramsay putting his name on a special-edition Whopper.

I've got to cleanse myself of this tragedy (the Boston thing, too). If nothing else, The Love Guru is a gross, firm reminder of our responsibility to do the best with what we've got in the short time we're allowed to live and play on this Earth. Anything less is an affront to those whose quest for actualization is cut far, far too short.

*Don't believe me? I assume you haven't seen last year's blockbuster comedy, Ted.

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