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Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Starring: Mike Myers, Heather Graham
Director: Jay Roach
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: June 1999
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Kristen Johnston, Verne Troyer

Review by MrBrown
2½ stars out of 4

_Austin_Powers_ is one pop culture phenomenon that has flown clear over my head. The shagadelic spy's first screen outing, 1997's _International_Man_of_Mystery_--whose box office grosses topped out at just north of $50 million, yet became a sensation on video--was definitely a likable, high-energy affair, but for me, that wasn't enough to redeem a script whose hit-and-miss stabs at humor were more amusingly silly than genuinely hilarious. The bigger, though not necessarily better, sequel, _The_Spy_Who_Shagged_Me_, doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is--more of the same. Whether or not that's a good thing, however, depends on who you are: fans of the original are indeed likely to find this installment to be groovy (as did the rowdy fans at my screening), but for me, it was another scattershot adventure with a few good chuckles but not quite as funny as it believes it is--or should be.

One of the key problems I had with the original film was that about three-quarters of the way through, the schtick of Austin Powers (Mike Myers) was exhausted. He's a defrosted British secret agent still stuck in the swinging '60s who is perpetually up for a shag and believes himself to be irresistibly sexy. That's it. By the time he performed his climactic striptease to "I Touch Myself," I wasn't laughing but silently grinning, if even that.

After _The_Spy_Who_Shagged_Me_ gets past a brief prologue that writes off the love interest of the previous film, Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), the film dives headlong into an elaborate credit sequence: Austin prances through a hotel in the buff (with strategically placed props, natch), culminating in an Esther Williams-style aquatic production number. Once this is all over, Austin is, to borrow one of his catch phrases, "spent"--creatively speaking. It's not so much that Myers, co-writer Michael McCullers, and returning director Jay Roach do nothing new with Austin in terms of story (again, he must thwart the magalomaniacal Dr. Evil, who has travelled back in time to 1969 to steal Austin's "mojo") than in terms of his thin character. Austin's "Yeah, baby!" one-liners, retro wardrobe, bad teeth, and swinging attitude--all mined for their entire worth and then some in _International_Man_of_Mystery_--haven't gotten better, just older. Even the diehards in the audience got bored; after Austin's umpteenth scene transition dance number, one once-howling fan was overheard saying, "That was stupid."

For me, Austin's archnemesis, the idiotic, hopelessly square, but no less dastardly Dr. Evil (also played by Myers) was always more interesting. Surprisingly, _The_Spy_Who_Shagged_Me_ focuses more on him than it does Austin, and the film benefits from that fact. Unlike their laissez-faire treatment of Austin, Myers and company have actually taken Dr. Evil in a fresh direction. In the first film, Dr. Evil's antiquated '60s sensibilities clashed with those of the '90s; in this one, the opposite is the case, with his new pseudo-hip, ultra '90s mentality a jarring anachronism in 1969. It sounds less than inspired in concept, but in execuation it fuels the film's best moments, most of which involve his new midget clone Mini-Me (Verne J. Troyer), whom a doting Dr. Evil prefers to his black sheep biological son Scott (Seth Green, also returning).

The rest of the film is a study in give and take. Heather Graham cuts a shagadelic figure as Austin's new sidekick/love interest, CIA agent Felicity Shagwell, but Hurley's icy hauteur in the first film made for a more effective foil. As enjoyable as the bulk of Mini-Me's antics are, his knock-down, drag-out fight with Austin is a less effective retread of the MTV Movie Award-winning Ben Stiller-Puffy the Dog confrontation in _There's_Something_About_Mary_. Rob Lowe does an even better Robert Wagner than Wagner himself as the '60s incarnation of Dr. Evil's yes-man Number Two (Wagner also briefly reprises his role as the '90s Number Two), but he is underutilized.

As with the original film, my just-OK assessment of _Austin_Powers:_The_Spy_Who_Shagged_Me_ is sure to be in the minority, and the film's certain success will cement _Austin_Powers_ as a New Line franchise. And as lukewarm as my take on these first two films are, I'd welcome a third--that is, if there can somehow be an _Austin_Powers_ film without Austin himself.

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