Lately, dear readers, I have been on a bit of a bad movie kick. It started a little over a year ago when I watched the so-called best worst movie in the world, Troll 2. In terms of a movie being so bad it’s good, Troll 2 definitely takes it. Since then I’ve taken time out of my days to watch Master of Disguise, Battlefield: Earth, Contracted, Teeth, and a bunch of other examples of bad cinema. For me, there are two categories of bad films: the first is the low budget films one expects to be bad, intentionally or not. Sometimes — as in the case of Troll 2 — the film’s lack of self-awareness of just how bad it is can give it a sort of beauty, like the horrible idea that drives the market for outsider art. Other films like Sharknado are fully aware of their place in the oeuvre: bad films intended as bad films. The second category of bad films are the films that are not just bad for the sake of being bad. These films are made with significant cinematic pedigree so they’re actually worse than bad, they’re disappointing and you can’t help but feel duped when this happens. To wit, Master of Disguise, Battlefield: Earth, and, the subject of this particular post, The Love Guru.
I readily admit that I had gone into watching Master of Disguise and Battlefield: Earth with preconceived notions that these were, in fact, bad films. I had given them both a pass during their initial cinema runs and largely ignored them until my recent fascination with the world of bad film. The Love Guru, on the other hand, I saw in its first week of cinematic release without any preconceived notion of what it might be and without having read any reviews. I was (and am) a Mike Myers fan so I simply trusted that I’d go sit in a darkened theatre for a couple of hours and see what his new character, Guru Pitka, had to offer in terms of laughs. I have always been aware that Myers’ comedy isn’t highbrow but that he somehow manages to connect with audiences. I’ve often thought about Myers’ comedic style and his obvious talent for negotiating what will please audiences at any given moment. What I really mean by this is that Myers’ comedy is of its time and doesn’t necessarily age well. As much as I love(d) Wayne’s World and Austin Powers, the humour hasn’t aged all that gracefully. I laugh because I suppose there is a kind of nostalgia in my brain about how funny “we’re not worthy” or “oh, behave” used to be. I’m as guilty as anyone else who came of age in the 1990s of spouting Myers’ catchphrases in earnest to actual laughs from my peers. If anyone were to do that now, they’d be the creepy guy in the trilby hat and neckbeard stewing about why he’s always being ‘friend-zoned’.
What I expected from The Love Guru was more of the somewhat ephemeral brand of easy humour I’d been accustomed to from Saturday Night Live onwards in Myers’ career. I want to paint the picture of why The Love Guru was so disappointing to me at the time of its release. For reasons already mentioned, I’ve never neglected to see a Mike Myers [comedy] film. I’m a fan. When The Love Guru was released in 2008 and I was living in Australia with my wife while she attended medical school at University of Wollongong. Wollongong is a city about an hour south of Sydney cradled by a beautiful escarpment on one side and wonderful beaches on the other (pay no attention to the industrial nightmare scene if you turn your head southward). When I lived there, there was only one small cinema in town with limited selections of films screened. If you wanted to see other films, you’d have to travel out of town to the multiplexes. I had decided that it was well worth it to travel somewhat inconveniently by bus to Warrawong on a Saturday afternoon to see the newest Mike Myers film. I convinced my wife that it’d be worth it, even though we really didn’t know where we were going and our journey would involve a couple of transfers and probably take us over an hour each way. Off we went, however, to the multiplex housed in a large but outdated shopping mall. Though I can’t find any decent photos of Warrawong, just know that it is not designed for pedestrian traffic. It is essentially the Australian version of the business park where North Americans would expect to find Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and the like. It has one major thoroughfare choked with traffic that is horrendously difficult to cross if on foot. No matter, we were there to see The Love Guru, not take a walking tour.
I’ve already mentioned that I’d avoided reading any reviews of the film before deciding to go see it because the currency of Mike Myers was reason enough for me wanting to see it; however, the fact that the theatre was almost entirely empty only a couple of days after the film’s initial release should have been a warning sign for me. I remember, sitting in my seat as cinema trivia flashed across the screen, thinking about how Australians probably just didn’t get a lot of the humour in a Myers film and that was the reason for their paltry turnout on this otherwise unremarkable day that was perfect for seeing a film. As the film began rolling, I sat back and prepared to be entertained for the foreseeable future. Instead, what I remember is a constant vigil in my head, holding out hope that this film has got to get better. As short-lived as some of Mike Myers’ previous jokes had been, they were at least funny at the time and this just…wasn’t. I was completely deflated by the time the final song and dance (what was with all the singing and dancing?!) played and knew that, even though I hadn’t made this film, I would be rightfully assigned the blame for wasting an entire Saturday by suggesting we see this film. I tried to rationalize some of the film’s failures: “It was cool to see hockey in a film, though, right?”, “There was a lot of regional humour there that of course I got, but others might not”, “Maybe I missed something on the first viewing. I’ll watch it again when the DVD comes out maybe”. That maybe never came, though. Until now.
After listening to Marc Maron’s recent interview with Mike Myers and the conspicuous absence of any conversation at all about the latter’s most recent starring role, I got to thinking about it. Mike Myers has been strangely absent from the world of entertainment since then (as has his comedic partner, Dana Carvey, since his last starring role in Master of Disguise) and I got to thinking about what a lost opportunity — approaching irresponsible — it is to have an hour of Mr. Myers’ time and not ask him about The Love Guru. Maybe Maron did ask and edited it out. I don’t know. To be fair, the interview didn’t touch on the unmade Dieter movie that had some controversy around it either. I did find a GQ interview where Myers said:
I just make stuff, and sometimes it does well. But there’s a lot in that movie [The Love Guru] comedically that I’m really, really proud of. I completely recognize it didn’t meet an audience.
The interview quickly went onto other topics, but not before Myers added that he had “tried [his] hardest” on that and all of his films. I, for one, am inclined to believe him. I simply cannot get on board with accusing any artist of creating something they don’t believe in. Similar accusations have been thrown toward Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Kanye West, and eternally unlucky director Terry Gilliam as making art that ‘dared’ audiences to like it, but I just don’t see it. Of course, you can try your hardest at something and still have it suck. We’ve all done it. And this is why I have decided to give The Love Guru another shot. I’m going to watch it again and see if hindsight, maturity, or context can rescue it de profundis.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post when I will discuss my second viewing of The Love Guru and see whether Kevin Steincross and I can find any common ground. I wonder if he meant the psychiatric definition of ‘hysterical’ — “shallow, volatile emotions, and attention-seeking behavior” — when reviewing this film Because, from memory, at least two of those apply to this film. Let’s wait and see.