A few years ago, a mysterious one-man show began popping up in New York comedy clubs: ''An Evening of Spiritual Enlightenment With His Holiness the Guru Pitka.'' Attendees bracing themselves for some sort of Eastern-inflected self-help seminar saw the light when the Guru turned out to be Mike Myers, field-testing his newest character, a wild and woolly American-born, ashram-trained spiritual leader whose mantra is ''Mariska Hargitay.'' If this sounds like a rather arduous way for a major comedy star to develop material, consider that the last time Myers workshopped a character, he came up with a jaunty little creation called Austin Powers. ''Mike's like a mad scientist in a lab,'' says Guru director Marco Schnabel.
Chronicling Pitka's misadventures as he attempts to overtake Deepak Chopra as the world's reigning relationship expert, Guru has all the trappings of a broad romp in the Powers mold, mercilessly skewering purveyors of pop New Age wisdom. But while a few religious leaders have expressed concern that the film lampoons Hinduism, Myers insists he isn't targeting any particular faith: ''[Pitka's belief system] is nondenominational and completely fictional,'' he says.
Indeed, for the comedian who hasn't made a non-Shrek film in five long years Guru comes from a place of deep, well, love. For more than a decade, Myers has been on what he terms a ''spiritual quest,'' soaking up the teachings of writers like Chopra, who makes a cameo in the film. In bringing Guru to summer moviegoers, Myers hopes to slip them genuine pearls of wisdom amid the dwarf-tossing and bawdy wordplay. ''I want the film to be a real celebration of life and happiness and silliness,'' he says. ''Part of enlightenment is to lighten up.'' Dr. Evil, meet your newest adversary. (June 20)