It has been five years since The Love Guru, the last film to star Mike Myers in a leading, live-action role. In those five years, the comedy world has become a completely different beast. Channing Tatum is funny. Judd Apatow's figurative children—James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill—practically run comedy in Hollywood. Melissa McCarthy is a major movie star and Kristen Wiig gave us the gift of Bridesmaids. To some, five years in between films may not seem like a major amount of time, but for a movie star like Myers it is practically an eternity.
There was a time when Mike Myers was a bankable comedy titan. His movies have grossed a total of $2.2 billion at the box office and while The Love Guru was a critical and financial flop (it stands at 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and earned only $40 million worldwide on a budget of $60 million) he's had more successful films than failures. So, is there room for Mike Myers in the current landscape of comedy? Can he make a comeback? If his next major role is as original and funny as Austin Powers, certainly.
Mike Myers famously started out as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. During his time on the show, he created famous characters like Linda Richman, Stuart Rankin and, of course, Wayne Campbell. Myers was able to translate his SNL success into a film career, something that only a few have truly been able to do (Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, and Will Ferrell are the most notable ones).
His cinematic debut was with Wayne’s World, the feature length movie based on the Saturday Night Live sketch. He followed that up with the semi-cult-classic So I Married an Axe Murderer and Wayne’s World 2. After the sequel didn’t fair as well as expected, he took five years off before returning with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. While it was a modest box office success, it became a huge hit on home video, eventually garnering two sequels, both incredibly profitable (The Spy Who Shagged Me and Goldmember domestically grossed $206 million and $213 million, respectively). Then, there's the ubiquitous Shrek franchise. While his physical presence was absent, his voice work as the title character earned him praise from critics.
But his career started going downhill. In 2003, The Cat in the Hat became Myer’s first big flop on all accounts. Critics ravaged the film, citing it as gross, crude, and lacking creativity. What followed were three more Shrek sequels and The Love Guru, whose failure was the ultimate sign that audiences and critics were tired of his exhaustingly energetic brand of broad humor.
The Love Guru was released in 2008 and was overshadowed by bigger and less obvious comedies of that year like the Will Ferrell's Step Brothers, Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder, and Seth Rogen and James Franco's bromedy, Pineapple Express. By then, WIll Ferrell had already established himself as the reigning king of comedy with Anchorman, and Rogen and Franco were milking the Superbad crowd. Adam Sandler's You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, which came out that year as well, grossed over $100 million. Zohan was released in the same month as The Love Guru and, while both films were critically panned, Sandler was still a draw, guaranteeing the film a success and stealing the audience away from Myers in what looked like a similar type of film.
It was clear was no room for an older guy in a tired, racially offensive costume. The film only showed how out of touch Myers had become. After the failure of The Love Guru, Myers stepped away from the spotlight.
And he's only recently resurfaced. Myers spoke with GQ about his upcoming documentary, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, which revolves around the life of the talent manager who worked for acts like Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Michael Douglas, and many more. In the interview, Myers talks about fame, his work, and if he has anything lined up. His answer? He has five ideas but nothing solid yet and doesn’t feel the need to rush into a project right away.
In his time away, audiences have had time to miss Myers and this is where his reluctance to just pick any role works to his advantage, making his return all the more anticipated but also difficult. The comedy landscape has changed drastically in the time he’s been away. If the box office success of Neighbors, This Is the End, and Bridesmaids are any indication, audiences respond to inventive, accessible comedies fronted by real people in absurd situations. That is, no longer Myers' and his contemporaries' (see: Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy) costumed one-trick ponies. Even Adam Sandler can't mail it in and expect a box office profit anymore, as evidenced by the failure of Blended.
Of course, it's not impossible for Myers to make a lasting return, but whatever his next project is, it would be smart for him to team up with anyone from the current crop of talent running comedy. Creative minds like Phillip Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street) could work well with a character actor like Myers. Though it would be tired and unnecessary, if Myers ends up returning with another Austin Powers sequel as it has long been rumored, it would be wise of him to cast box-office draws who also excel at character work similar to him, like Melissa McCarthy. It would also be an excellent challenge for him to return as host of Saturday Night Live, a great place to test out some new characters and see if audiences are receptive. Essentially, Myers' comeback is dependent on him adapting to audience demands.
Myers has proven himself successful when taking major time off in between films before, so there's no doubt that an audience will be there to welcome him with open arms. He just has to know what makes them laugh.
Jordan Appugliesli is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He tweets here.