Mike Myers struck it rich on "Saturday Night Live" and struck it even richer in the "Austin Powers" and "Shrek" franchises. But that doesn't mean everything he touches turns to gold, as this 2008 comedy, "The Love Guru," demonstrates. Neither the high-resolution Blu-ray picture nor the Dolby TrueHD sound can do much to help out a bad thing.
Of course, comedy is a funny business, and dedicated Mike Myers fans may find "The Love Guru" hilarious. Personally, I apply the term "comedy" loosely to this film, as one may find varying degrees of funniness in it, depending on the individual doing the looking. I smiled once, during a bar-fight scene. The rest of the time I sat stoney-faced, annoyed at the film's constant juvenile toilet humor and general dullness. It proves you can sharpen up the video via 1080p high definition, but you can't sharpen up a movie's content.
It feels as though Myers, co-writer Graham Gordy, and first-time director Marco Schnabel used leftovers from Myers's last "Austin Powers" film, "Goldmember," to fill up most of the flimsy plot of "The Love Guru." Indeed, there isn't so much a plot to "Love Guru" as there is a series of brief skits, some of them no more than a single gag. Worse, almost all of the gags revolve around burps, farts, fart sounds, peeing, defecating, nuts, and wieners. Given the endless grossness in the film, it surprises me that the MPAA gave it a PG-13 rating for what it calls "crude and sexual content." That's putting it mildly, when you consider that two of the film's signature moments involve a "stink mop" fight, the mops soaked in urine, and two elephants copulating. Still, the movie never goes too far into hard profanity, and it never embraces actual sex or nudity. It's mainly little-boy potty humor, which starts out dull and stays that way.
In the film Myers plays the Guru Pitka, a celebrity "neo-Eastern, self-help spiritualist" and full-time huckster who lives in a Hollywood palace. Now, here's the thing: Myers means for the Pitka character to be totally into himself, convinced his humor is bringing joy to others. Yet it's hard to tell if it's the character or Myers himself who is totally into himself. Myers writes himself into almost every scene, and he punctuates every joke by laughing and winking at it and the audience, as though not only the joke but he were the greatest things in the world. This kind of self-aggrandizement wears thin fast, whether it's a comic act or not.
Moving on, the plot, what little there is, concerns a professional hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have never won a title since the Bullard family bought them in 1967. Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba) is the current owner, and everyone in Toronto hates her for her team's lengthy losing streak. She perceives the current problem as being the failure of her star player, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), to perform on the ice. It seems he's in a funk because his wife, Prudence (Meagan Good), is having an affair with a rival player, Jacques "Le Coq" Grandé (Justin Timberlake). Prudence likes Grandé because, well, his nickname explains it. So Jane hires Pitka to motivate Roanoke, promising Pitka $2,000,000 if he can get Roanake back together with his wife and help the team win Stanley's Cup; er, the Stanley Cup.
For Pitka, the money isn't important. He's a spiritual man, after all, and not into monetary or worldly things. Except for his palace, his servants, his swimming pool, his extensive wardrobe, etc. No, for Pitka the job is important because it will get him a spot on Oprah Winfrey's show and maybe, just maybe, help him surpass the popularity of rival self-help advisor Deepak Chopra (who makes a brief cameo late in the film).
And that's about it. The rest of the film consists of an endless series of sexual innuendos and appearances by various supporting players, all of whom are more amusing than Myers. For instance, diminutive Verne Troyer plays the coach of the Leafs, and he's the subject of much abuse because of his size. Timberlake and Alba are simply too good for the material. Ben Kingsley, of all people, plays Pitka's personal tutor, Guru Tugginmypudha, in a few minutes of slumming. Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan play a pair of idiot sports announcers, Jay and Trent, who pretty much steal the show. And there is an assortment of cameo appearances that amount to next to nothing from Mariska Hargitay (whose name gets a good deal of play in the film), Jessica Simpson, Val Kilmer, the voice of Morgan Freeman, and others.
Is "The Love Guru" really as bad as I make it sound? Maybe not for everyone. As I said, the supporting players are the best part of it. Alba and Timberlake are especially engaging; Colbert and Gaffigan at least approach comedy; and the Freeman voice-over gag actually works. The rest, and that's mostly Myers, is forgettable.
I found the standard-definition version of this movie somewhat soft and fuzzy, a condition that Paramount's MPEG-4/AVC, dual-layer BD50 Blu-ray transfer goes a long way to improve. In high def, the overall sharpness of the 2.35:1 ratio picture looks good most of the time, with only occasional lapses into softness. What's more, there is little-to-no grain to speak of, making me think the studio may have applied a degree of filtering to the video. The colors remain bright and vivid, with no blur whatever, and the black levels are solid, making the image quite eye-catching, an entirely appropriate proposition for a lowbrow comedy like this one.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound doesn't do too much to justify its name. Since most of the audio consists of dialogue, I could not tell much difference between the SD disc's regular Dolby Digital and the BD's TrueHD. Both encodes come across cleanly and quietly, with a well-focused dynamic thrust from time to time. Still, the soundtrack hardly uses the surrounds, save for the most minor musical ambience enhancement, and there isn't much of a frequency range involved. If I had to find a difference between the Dolby Digital and the TrueHD, I'd say maybe the TrueHD displayed a tauter bass, but there is so little to compare, it was hard to tell.
Disc one of this two-disc Blu-ray set contains the feature film and the extras, all of them in high def. Things begin with three featurettes: "Mike Myers and The Love Guru" is a ten-minute look inside the film; "One Hellava Elephant" is a five-minute look at the model elephant used in the film; and "Hockey Training for Actors" is an eight-minute look at the instruction the actors took on playing the game. Next, there are eleven deleted and extended scenes, including an alternate ending, totaling about thirteen minutes. Then there's "Back in the Booth with Jay and Trent," about five more minutes with the goofy sports announcers; and, finally, about four minutes of bloopers and ten minutes of outtakes.
Things wrap up with twenty scene selections, along with bookmarks; a widescreen theatrical trailer; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
Disc two contains a standard-definition digital copy of the film for PC's, Mac's, iPods, iPhones, and other compatible devices.
For months before this picture opened, Hindu groups were protesting it and urging boycotts of it. Now that I've seen it, I can begin to see their point. Not only might the movie offend Hindus, it might offend anyone with good taste. As a critic, I'd urge a boycott on the grounds the movie is a waste of time and talent. "The Love Guru" is fairly mindless stuff that may appeal to die-hard Myers fans or equally die-hard Blu-ray enthusiasts.