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"Love" Hurts

Mike Myers' new pop farce will leave you in need of yoga therapy.

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Mike Myers can make the worst joke funny. That's a testament to his personal charisma, but it's also the best thing you can say about "The Love Guru," an "Austin Powers" wannabe that succeeds only insofar as Myers can carry it with death-defying exuberance.

"The Love Guru" is about one Guru Pitka (Myers), an unlikely Hindu teacher who travels from India to Toronto so he can solve the marital troubles of a Canadian Maple Leafs hockey star. More closely resembling a B-grade Mel Brooks farce than "Austin Powers," the movie is shamelessly unoriginal and crude, yet still manages -- as far as an audience who got in free can be trusted -- to be a belly-laugh-inducing crowd-pleaser.A, 

Weighed down by such leaden lines as "Let's make like a baby and head out" and padded with run-of-the-mill gross-out humor and a lot of slapstick involving a dwarf (Verne Troyer), the laughter is generously aided by Myers' unrelenting charm and enthusiasm. "The Love Guru" contains a few of those pointed asides and pop-culture barbs that made "International Man of Mystery" such a hit, but most of it would feel more comfortable around the campfire in "Blazing Saddles."

The story is mere nan for mopping up the curry. Pitka has been hired by the owner of the Leafs (played by perfectly tanned android Jessica Alba) to get their star Darren (Romany Malco) back with his wife (Meagan Good), who has retaliated for infidelity by moving in with a rival team's goalie (Justin Timberlake). Teaching Darren his self-help system allows Myers to poke fun at such things as overused acronyms and trite New Age-isms. A typical joke goes: "Have you read my new book? It's called A٨If You're Happy and You Know It Think Again.'"

Going further with that spirituality angle might have turned Pitka into a worthy new franchise character, something one suspects the makers of "The Love Guru" hope for. But those who worried about Hindu bashing should have no fear. "The Love Guru" spends vastly more of its time knee deep in potty humor. Armed with boogers, excrement and testicles, Myers has evidently meditated heavily on those basic things that -- he thinks -- are fail-safe in making the broadest segment of the public laugh. For the rest of us, he's decided that if he keeps at it long enough, we too will relent. "Guru" also gets a lot of mileage out of big penises, foreign words with accidental naughtiness, such as coq, and Myers' Indian accent, which slips more than once. You might be lost if you happened to skip middle school (Coach Cherkov, anyone?).

Even most of the India bits, like the names -- Ben Kingsley, sad to say, shows up as a cross-eyed guru named Tugginmypudha -- are hot off the recess court with a distinctive "ouch"-inducing factor. Perhaps Myers feared going at another country with anything more grown-up, because the few adult-oriented moments are more charming than lampooning. In one such scene, upon meeting Alba's character, Pitka's third eye imagines them singing in a Bollywood-style spectacle. It's an amusing early sequence, and one hopes for more to come, but that's as close to the real India as we ever get.

A rule of thumb in comedy is that you can get away with just about anything as long as the jokes are funny. But when they're not, other blemishes stand out even more. Putting all his chapati in one basket, Myers puts the entire movie on his own shoulders, with the rest of the cast stuck as props supporting him in what amounts to a variety of glorified cameos. With respect to Alba, Malco and Good, that was probably the most to be hoped for. But Timberlake, a decent performer, is also kept to the periphery, lost behind the lamest mustache and kung fu moves to be found this side of "Napoleon Dynamite."A, 

Otherwise "The Love Guru" is all Mike Myers, and though that worked for the first "Powers" movie, and though he manages to elevate a few of the jokes to laugh level, most of it feels like the formulaic, gimmicky thinking it's attempting to parody. If you think the world can never get enough Mini-Me, you will bow to this "Guru." Otherwise, you might find yourself with your eyes closed, whispering "om" and trying to find a quiet place until it's all over. (PG-13) 88 min. A, 

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