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What Went Wrong?: Vol. Whatever – The Love Guru
October 24, 2016Posted by on
Mike Myers has long been considered an egomaniacal nightmare in Hollywood, but the success of both the Austin Powers and Shrek franchises largely allowed him to run roughshod all over Hollywood for the better part of a decade. Because his films brought in big box office receipts, Myers’ self-indulgent ego went completely and utterly unchecked. Even his relative box office misses, 2003’s The Cat in the Hat for example, still somehow made money. This all changed in 2008 when Myers’ notorious The Love Guru not only bombed spectacularly, but also drew some of the most dire reviews of any major theatrical release ever. So what exactly went wrong?
Let’s start by going back to 1992 for a moment. In the winter of 1992, Wayne’s World (Myers’ first starring role), shocked box office pundits, grossing over a hundred million dollars domestically. The film, based off of a Saturday Night Live sketch, was also met with enthusiastic reviews and is still funny today, almost 25 years later (I re-watch it about once a year and feel it’s one of the best comedies of the 90s). The film was a resounding success for Paramount, beginning a long and mostly successful relationship between Myers and the film studio. However, behind the scenes Myers was considered a nightmare, so much so that the film’s director, Penelope Spheeris, did not direct the sequel, Wayne’s World 2.
Speaking of Wayne’s World 2, that Stephen Surjik (who?)-directed sequel grossed less than half the original film despite its placement as a big Christmas season would-be blockbuster. Though I (mostly) like Wayne’s World 2, it’s hard to argue that it’s as good as the first (because it isn’t). It was met with lower critical reviews and audience disinterest. The film, released in 1993, would be Myers last big theatrical-starring release until four years when the first Austin Powers movie came out. That film, shot on a budget of about 16 million dollars, turned a modest profit at the box office but immediately caught on with home video, becoming a significant cult crossover hit.
The post-theatrical success of the first Austin Powers movie was so enormous that it led to Austin Powers 2 grossing a whopping 300 million dollars worldwide, becoming one of the biggest hits of 1999. Back on top of the world, Myers gained even more prominence voicing the title character in the Shrek series of films, beginning in 2001. The four theatrically released Shrek films have grossed over one billion dollars in the United States alone. A third Austin Powers film grossed over 200 million stateside despite mediocre reviews, becoming another significant hit for Myers back in 2002. Shrek 2 became one of the biggest animated hits ever in 2004, but the cracks began to show in 2007 with the release of the third film in the franchise.
Though it grossed a healthy amount upon release in 2007, it was almost universally disliked (and failed to build off the success of part two). Franchise fatigue had set it, as it had with Wayne’s World and the Austin Powers films. Additionally, Myers had a falling out with Universal Studios over a proposed “Dieter” film. Based on a recurring character from Saturday Night Live sketches in the early 90s (where have we seen this before?), the Dieter film was expected to be the next Austin Powers-type franchise. A script disagreement between Myers (who helped pen the script, it should be noted) and Universal execs led to a lawsuit, the results of which are fascinating and easily Googled. I suggest checking it out. The Dieter lawsuit began around 2000 but followed Myers for years afterwards, contributing to the perception that he was a perfectionist at best and an egomaniac at worst.
Whatever made Myers rescind the Dieter contracts obviously didn’t stop him from making The Love Guru, however. The critically derided Love Guru (14% on Rotten Tomatoes), released in the summer of 2008, became Myers biggest and most notorious flop. For a guy who had only had two significant career flops (Wayne’s World 2 and The Cat in the Hat, the former of which was still a good movie and the latter of which still made money), the failure of The Love Guru hurt Myers so badly that he essentially took refuge in Shep Gordon’s famed Hollywood famous person retreat in Hawaii. Myers has not starred in a comedy film since, opting to appear in minor roles for mainstream directors like Quentin Tarantino or make documentary films instead. Myers has admitted publicly that the failure of The Love Guru caused him to spiral into depression, which is honestly something I hope he received professional help for.
It wasn’t that The Love Guru was just a bad movie that makes it a significant What the fuck? in Hollywood history – it’s that it is considered one of the worst movies of all time. Littered with product placement (Hotdog on a Stick, Cinnabun), celebrity worship/cameos, and all of the stuff Myers finds personally interesting (pseudo-Hindu mysticism, Maple Leafs hockey, Canada in general), The Love Guru isn’t just any old commercially released comedy film. It’s a passion project meets a big Hollywood studio release that cost millions of dollars, lost millions of dollars, and ended up appealing to no one except for the egomaniacal person at the center of the production – in this case, Mike Myers. The Love Guru was such a failure that it killed Myers’ career as a leading comedy film actor. He hasn’t appeared in a leading role since.