Everyone has unrealized goals. Even smarmy, New Agey, self-help spiritualists.
Take Guru Pitka, a saffron-clad sage who seemingly has it all: mansions, servants, throngs of followers and even a motorized “flying carpet” that whooshes him around like a tasseled Segway. He’s the author of such popular books as If You’re Happy and You Know It, Think Again and Does It Hurt When You Do That? Don’t Do That. Folks flock to him seeking happiness, fulfillment and love.
Yet Pitka himself is neither truly happy, nor truly fulfilled—and he blames it all on rival guru Deepak Chopra. It seems Pitka is forever playing Robin to Chopra’s Batman, Ed McMahon to Chopra’s Johnny Carson, Garth to Chopra’s Wayne. And being America’s No. 2 pop spiritualist really frosts Pitka’s tamarind chutney.
“What does Deepak Chopra have that I don’t have?” he moans.
The answer is obvious: Oprah.
Turns out, Chopra is always popping up on Oprah’s daily gabfest. And Pitka figures if he can just land a guest spot on her show, he can leave his rival guru in the transcendental dust.
Pitka’s ensuing quest for Oprah’s couch takes him through some odd territory. Specifically, he brings all of his love guru prowess to bear on behalf of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey superstar Darren Roanoke, who has split with his beautiful wife, Prudence. And ever since Prudence started smooching a goalie from a rival NHL team, Darren’s scoring has gone ice cold. Maple Leafs owner Jane Bullard will try just about anything to help Darren find the back of the net again—including putting Pitka on the case.
His strategy? Reunite Darren and Prudence. But to do so, Pitka will have to overcome obstacles more daunting than Mount Meru: angry fans, skeptical coaches, attack chickens, Darren’s mother, his own quest for celebrity and, of course, the rival goalie—a fellow with a thick mustache, a thicker French-Canadian accent and a tattoo pointing to his nether regions that reads, “The Legend.”
Pitka’s “wisdom” often sounds like a mix between the Bhagavad Gita and 1,001 Dirty Jokes. Still, a few lessons, miniscule though they may be, can be gleaned:
Most of Pitka’s self-help sayings are plays on words. “Intimacy = Into Me I See,” for instance. He wants his followers to move from “Nowhere” to “Now Here.” While these little philosophical gems may be of negligible value, Pitka does preach the importance of confidence and self-love. He insists that we should stop being so hard on ourselves all the time. While that philosophy brings with it the obvious danger of narcissism, it’s not terribly far off from the Christian ideals of grace and forgiveness.
Accordingly, one of Pitka’s main goals is to help heal the Roanokes’ broken marriage. Along the way, Pitka encourages Darren to stand up to his overbearing mother, which he eventually does in a kind, affirming way. Pitka also learns a few lessons of his own: that sticking to one’s values is far better than getting cozy with Oprah, and that accepting yourself is a big key to loving others effectively.
Though Pitka is a neo-Eastern sage, we don’t hear too much about the specific spiritual beliefs undergirding his pop spirituality. Pitka is not selling a religion as much as he is marketing shrink-wrapped psychotherapy draped in love beads. It’s a sugary, feel-good spirituality divorced (or at least distanced) from the Divine.
That said, one of Pitka’s guru forebears suggests (before, Pitka notes, he came down with syphilis) that we can all be divine: “To know something is good,” this guru supposedly said. “To do something is God.” Elsewhere a literal “third eye,” a Hindu and Buddhist symbol of enlightenment, pops up on folks’ foreheads on occasion. Pitka refers to Jane as a “goddess of love” during a Bollywood-style musical number. He also melds Exodus 21:24 with his own philosophy, finishing the phrase “an eye for an eye” with “leaves everyone blind.”
But Pitka appears to have an appreciation for at least some things related to Christianity. He co-opts the name Bible for his own spiritual teachings, referring to both his words and the real book as “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” He boogies to gospel music while visiting a church, and we learn that Pitka’s parents (both of whom have died) were once missionaries. (There’s more, unfortunately, to say about that below.)
The Love Guru’s double-entendre tagline, “His Karma Is Huge,” gives viewers a clue about what to expect in this movie as countless sexually themed jokes fall fast and furious. When Pitka as a young boy meets his future mentor (a bearded, cross-eyed fellow named Tugginmypudah), Pitka tells him that his parents were dog groomers before they became missionaries. The guru makes a mean-spirited joke at the dead parents’ expense (“They were into doggy style before they got into missionary position,” he chortles). And when Pitka tells him he wants to be a spiritual guide in order to get women, the elder guru requires him to wear a metal chastity belt. Pitka begins to ask if he can masturbate while wearing it, and the guru replies, “You will go cross-eyed.” Subsequently, audiences hear a sound akin to the smacking of a saucepot every time Pitka gets aroused (usually when Jane is around).
Darren’s rival for Prudence is a fellow named Jacques Grande, whose nickname is a crude reference to the male anatomy. We see him in a form-hugging Speedo bathing suit, and he sometimes reveals his wares to appreciative women (though the camera never strays below his waist).
When Pitka invites Jane over for dinner, he serves a supposed Indian delicacy (nuts wrapped in dough) that looks like a scrotum. The entrée is pounded with a mallet, boiled, and served with crispy noodles and a pickle, further “enhancing” the anatomical joke for anyone who missed it the first time around.
Several of Pitka’s acronyms form crass words and phrases. Many of his ancestral gurus have suggestive names. Pitka and Darren frequently employ crude hand gestures intended to attract attention to their crotches. Pitka also gets several items shoved up his rear, including a pool cue and his own head.
The guru’s mansion is staffed by buxom women wearing skimpy outfits. Sports commentator Jay Kell draws a picture of a penis on a telestrator. Darren dates bikini-clad supermodels. We see a supposed paparazzi shot of Pitka exposing himself, critical parts censored with a black box.
Oh, and I haven’t mentioned yet that elephants have sex on the hockey ice during an extended time out. (The scene is “complimented” by the announcer’s graphic play-by-play description of one elephant mounting another.)
Before a hockey game, Pitka orders Darren to not fight “anyone, for any reason”—a difficult order to follow in the rough sport—then deliberately enrages Darren’s opponents. Darren is subsequently pounded in the rink (without, apparently, any penalties being called). Then Pitka reverses his instructions, and Darren promptly attacks Jacques Grande, smashing his head into the net pipe and knocking out a tooth. Darren also fires a puck at his own coach.
Pitka has no problem mixing it up himself, either. He and Darren start a massive bar fight (where patrons smash chairs over one another and the guru gets beaten up by two little girls). He scuffles with a fierce attack rooster—an encounter that leaves him with scads of scars and a propensity to cough up feathers.
A Zamboni driver is coldcocked by both a puck and a hockey stick. A diminutive coach (played by Verne Troyer, “Mini-Me” in Myers’ Austin Powers franchise) feigns a heart attack; when paramedics try to “revive” him with a defibrillator, the shock sends him zipping across the ice, smoke trailing behind him.
Characters say the s-word a half-dozen times. Other profanities include “a–,” “b–ch,” “pr–k” and (particularly) “d–n.” God’s name is misused at least once. Several obscene hand gestures are made.
Pitka and his sidekick mix a martini for Prudence. The Maple Leafs’ coach takes puffs from a hookah and eventually appears to pass out. A hockey commentator lets loose a drug-induced, stream-of-consciousness rant during the Stanley Cup Finals. There’s a reference to peyote buttons.
During a training exercise, Pitka’s guru urinates in a bucket. His disciples, including Pitka, then fight with mops that have been soaking in the bucket, creating a gross mayhem. The elder guru also pours tea through his nose, and Pitka’s own cuppa contains a mucus-covered hair. Likewise, his assistant scans Pitka’s nostrils for embarrassing mucus. Elephants defecate and pass gas. Other characters make gaseous noises, too, and Pitka mentions that he has to “take a dump.” He advertises a “Gambler’s Anonymous Monte Carlo Night.”
Of all the wordplays used in Love Guru, the most important is D.R.A.M.A.—an acronym so meaningful to Pitka that he tattooed the letters on his fingers. It goes like this:
Distraction. Regression. Adjustment. Maturation. Action.
Pitka utilizes this formula to bring Darren and Prudence back together. But after polishing off the D and the R in fine fashion, Pitka fast-tracks the healing process, and declares Darren cured—a bit prematurely, as it turns out.
How appropriate, then, that The Love Guru excels as both a distraction and regression, but similarly fails in all the rest. It’s filled with enough visual and audio stimulants to overwhelm hyperactive middle schoolers. And as it clips along at a joke-a-second pace, most of its gags end up being, in fact, gag-inducing, relying heavily upon continual references to sex, penises, urine or flatulence.
Mike Myers, the popular comedian who created and plays Pitka, hopes The Love Guru will be a “delivery system for some wonderful ideas,” according to Entertainment Weekly. He and Deepak Chopra are, in fact, good friends. In a forward for one of Chopra’s books, Myers wrote that comedy and profundity are linked—that “‘ha ha’ is related to ‘ah-ha,’ the sound one makes upon the realization of truth.”
Truth is, the crudities masquerading as comedy in The Love Guru are about as profound as a naughty sixth grader’s repertoire of dirty jokes.
“Ah-ha”? More like, “Oh no.”
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.