Canadian film

The Love Guru

There are two directions a film called The Love Guru can go: either a send-up of easy answer self-help inspirational culture of the kind that’s infested Instagram, or a satire of cults and their acolytes (interestingly, the line between these is often blurred).

When you don’t delve deeply enough into either, you’re stuck in a comedy middle ground, a laugh-less purgatory.

The indelible pop culture juggernaut that is Austin Powers could make sport of his own sexual inadequacy, toy with action film convention, and of course, mine the wealth of material that is the James Bond franchise. However, Guru Pitka, the title character in The Love Guru, is as under-developed as some of the Saturday Night Live-character-based full-length features.  In fact, even though its genesis is elsewhere, the bearded guru character feels like it was workshopped in front of Lorne Michaels, and kiboshed before making it to air.

The Love Guru is pretty grim stuff indeed, and a shame too as it’s unabashedly Canadian, peppered with arcane references to a storied (well, infamous and perpetually terrible) Toronto hockey team (and its owner) and featuring our national game in all its glory. And there’s a wealth of supporting talent in the form of Stephen Colbert, Justin Timberlake, and others.

The Guru is brought in to help one of the Leafs’ star players reconcile with his wife, who’s left him for a French-Canadian goalie. He figures this will catapult him to the top of the self-help heap, currently occupied by Deepak Chopra.

This threadbare plotting paves the way for loads of Myers’ cheeky innuendo and awful punning, the kind that a character as lovably lecherous as Austin Powers could get away with — but not so here. Especially when he’s laughing at his own tepid jokes.

Vern Troyer (as Coach Punch Cherkov…yep, that’s the kind of humor we’re dealing with) is the subject of a terrific gag involving his scaled-to-size office, however that’s possibly The Love Guru’s sole guffaw.

And with an 87-minute run-time, it still feels heavily padded (there are three, count ’em three, musical numbers, none of which is inspired).

Painful stuff.

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Be sure to check out our podcast of The Love Guru on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]!

Pin

When a medical simulation dummy becomes a surrogate father figure (wait, what?)…well, let’s just say you’re in for some serious weirdness. Pin, aka, Pin: A Plastic Nightmare is one of the more underrated (and as is often the case, under-seen) horrors from the 1980s, an era dominated by oblivious campers, clandestine romps, and masked assailants (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Slashers can be beautiful).

Pin is such a marked departure from…pretty much everything, that it is much-see material regardless of epoch. It’s even a kind of spiritual cousin to Cronenberg’s early tax shelter films (and like Rabid, Pin was filmed in Montreal).

And similar to Burnt Offerings or The Sentinel, director Sandor Stern lures viewers into Pin’s world through a gable window as neighborhood kids speculate as to who/what it is that’s gazing down on them from above.

Creepy stuff out of the gate.

Creepier still, taskmaster doc, Linden, teaches his two kids Ursula and Leon about the birds and the bees, through the eponymous mannequin (“Pin,” short form of Pinocchio) and hair-raising ventriloquism. But this is a film that both throws voices, and viewers for a loop, as when Linden and the kids’ mother is claimed in a car accident, fatherly duties go to the man made of plastic.

Like other films of the era, there’s childhood trauma involving sex. In this case, it’s Leon witnessing one of his father’s nurses, getting it on with the singular expression mannequin in his pops’ office. When his younger sister comes of age sexually, a mentally deteriorating Leon controls her “needs” to the best of his abilities, solo and through Pin.

Some reviewers have pointed out the near-inevitable similarities to Psycho; however the Freudian subtext is anted up in Pin.

And speaking of psychology, a New York Times reviewer pointed out, “Although the viewer can never be fully sure, it seems as though his blank, receptive facial expression is even capable of slight changes…” It’s almost like the “auto-kinetic effect” in visual perception studies, whereby viewers in a totally dark room, perceive a stationary dot on the wall, as moving. In the case of Pin, the brain “fills in” what would normally be a face with all its human expression.

*** 1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Pin on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]