Mike Myers, who stars as a second-tier Deepak Chopra in "The Love Guru," is a real chameleon of a comic and yet, no matter how many disguises or outlandish outfits or facial prosthetics he fits into, he remains himself. Or should I say, "himself." For all I know, Myers in real life is a monkish recluse, but his screen persona is indubitably in-your-face.
It doesn't matter whether he's playing Austin Powers or the cohost of "Wayne's World" or the German talk-show host Dieter or the Barbra Streisand-worshiper Linda Richman on "Coffee Talk." It doesn't even matter if he's impersonating Mick Jagger. What links all these characters is Myers's gift for antic, elfin burlesque. He's like a second-best Peter Sellers.
This is not to say that Myers's comedies are all equally funny. Even at his best he can be overbearing beyond the point of parody. It's no accident that Myers was at his most effective in his "Saturday Night Live" sketches, where the tight formats reined in his sloppier excesses. In his feature films, the hilarious moments are essentially sketches, too. There are enough such moments in "The Love Guru" to make it, if not an unadulterated pleasure, then at least a guilty one.
Myers plays Guru Pitka, who, as a child, was left by his American parents at the gates of an Indian ashram presided over by the high and mighty – and cross-eyed – Guru Tugginmypuddha (Ben Kingsley, doing his best yet again to make us forget he once played Gandhi). Pitka's best friend and rival in the ashram was Deepak Chopra. Wanna bet Chopra makes a guest appearance in "The Love Guru"? (He may not realize he's being lampooned. On the other hand, as a great swami once uttered, publicity is publicity.)
Bearded and with a bulbous schnoz, Myers's resplendently robed Pitka looks like a cross between a peacock and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He could have stepped right out of the cover of the "Sergeant Pepper" album. Ensconced in America, with a celebrity clientele, Pitka churns out a steady stream of self-help guides with titles like "I Know You Are, but What Am I?"
Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba), the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, asks him to intervene when the wife of her top player, Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), runs off with the star goalie of the rival L.A. Kings, Jacques "Le Coq" Grande (Justin Timberlake). In Pitka's fevered noggin, reuniting husband and wife will not only restore the disconsolate Darren's scoring ability but, more important, land him a spot on "Oprah."
Most of the supporting cast members are lackluster, which only makes Myers's yogic shenanigans stand out even more. (An exception: Stephen Colbert playing a demented Stanley Cup sports announcer.) Whether he's plucking a sitar or romping in a Bollywood fantasia or gliding across the ice in his motorized carpet, Pitka is ecstatically enthralled with himself. Myers captures the con artist in this celebrity guru but he also locates his inner child – or, to be more exact, his inner brat.
On some level, Myers buys into all the touchy-feely stuff that Pitka is proffering, which ultimately makes "The Love Guru" mushier than it needed to be. But be thankful for small favors: At least he didn't haul out Barbra Streisand for a cameo appearance. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references.)