AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME
First, this must be said: I was wrong about the original AUSTIN
POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY. In 1997, I gave the film an
unenthusiastic 5 out of 10, noting that writer/star Mike Myers'
infatuation with old "Saturday Night Live" sketches and characters blunted
the truly inspired comic moments. I'm still pretty comfortable with my
rating, though a recent second viewing suggested I may have been slightly
stingy (Dr. Evil alone is too hilarious not to warrant at least a mild
recommendation). No, I was wrong in a suggestion I made for improvement.
I thought AUSTIN POWERS might have worked better as a pure 1960s period
piece rather than a fish-out-of-water comedy with shagadelic, cryogenic
secret agent Austin Powers (Myers) coping with 1990s life when he's thawed
out to battle old nemesis Dr. Evil (also Myers). AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY
WHO SHAGGED ME proves that a different temporal setting wouldn't have
changed anything, because Myers used a different temporal setting and
didn't change anything.
Those familiar with the original -- mostly from its spectacular
second life on video -- will recall that we left Dr. Evil drifting through
space in his Big Boy rocket while Austin honeymooned with agent Vanessa
Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley). Both the Big Boy and Vanessa are quickly
dispatched to set Dr. Evil on his latest plan, which requires getting
Austin out of the way. His fiendish plot involves traveling back through
time to 1969 to steal from the still-frozen Austin the source of all his
Powers: his mojo. Faster than you can say Basil Exposition (Michael
York), Austin has a time machine of his own, and pops back to swinging
London. There he teams up with CIA operative Felicity Shagwell (Heather
Graham) to recapture the mojo in question and prevent something evil from
The exact nature of that something evil is, of course, entirely
beside the point. THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME is at its goofy best when it's
most self-aware, mocking film conventions of all sorts. Austin and
Felicity drive through the "English Countryside" while noting "it's
amazing how much England looks in no way like Southern California;"
concerns about physics of time travel are dismissed with an admonishment
to the audience to do the same. Myers can be utterly brilliant working
with incongruous situations, as when he follows a romantic liaison between
Dr. Evil and co-worker-in-evil Frau Farbissina (Mindy Sterling) with an
awkward "morning after" meeting at the underground lair's coffee machine.
When Myers finds a comic target -- Starbucks, the music of the 80s, STAR
WARS' opening narrative crawl -- he knows how to use it.
He also doesn't know how to stop using it. The original AUSTIN
POWERS was at its most wearying when Myers took a joke and beat all
semblance of life out of it for several agonizing minutes. He's at it
again this time, and he's using identical gags he already exhausted in the
previous film. Once again, a naked Austin's naughty bits are hidden
strategically by other (usually phallic) objects; once again, Dr. Evil
engages in a binge of pre-emptively shushing his son Scott (Seth Greene);
once again, Austin makes several exaggerated, James Bond-like puns
referring to a villain's demise. Even the original's best sequence -- the
Evil family therapy session -- is revisited as a "Jerry Springer" episode.
And when Myers does come up with a new concept, he still insists on using
it twice, or twice as long as necessary. We've all come to expect sequels
that recycle huge chunks of the original, usually in the action genre.
When a satirical comedy loses its sense of discovery, there's not much
reason for it to exist.
The one major change is the 1969 setting, though there doesn't seem
to be much point to it. The best reason for putting Austin back in his
element is to watch him be his lascivious, un-self-conscious self through
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