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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 Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

A movie need not have a tightly-wound, unified plot to work. One recent film--a critically underrated box office flop --functioned like a series of Saturday Night Live sketches and was laugh-a-minute funny throughout. I speak of Mike Judge's Dilbert-like "Office Space," which should have been a hoot for those in the audience who make their living in offices. Mike Judge arrays in their cubicles crunching numbers and doing assorted jobs which are not in the least as meaningful as the genuinely productive deeds that muscular guys accomplish on the street with their drills, hammers, and saws. The basis for its rich humor is its grounding in reality. Although as distorted as a Hirschfield caricature, "Office Space" reveals the emotional truths that inhabit the souls of so many guys and gals who trudge to their metal desks in Kafkaesque rooms shuffling papers that only wind up in the circular file.

"Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me," similarly a series of sketches, has virtually no basis in reality. Even that defect could be compensated for if the humor were not so sophomoric, repetitive, just plain unfunny. Despite the abundant scatological references and allusions to the penis, "Austin Powers 2" cannot even boast of its potential to offend anyone to the left of the Ayatollahs. Too bad the script is not up to the acting ability of Mike Myers, who wowed his aficionados in the (also underrated) "So I Married an Ax Murderer," which found the humorist in multiple roles as well. He was almost unrecognizable when he affected a deep Scottish brogue in the guise of his own father.

Where "Office Space" holds a thesis--that work is a travesty that kills the human spirit--"Austin Powers 2" simply relies on scattershot gags loosely tied together by two doctrines: 1) that most advertising and a great deal of TV are largely ridiculous. Then again, we knew that ever since we were 4 years old and began spoofing the silly commercials ourselves. 2) Much is made of the paradox that the private parts of the human body are at once the source of sexual turn-ons and the root of the most vulgar of excretory activity.

The film jumps freely back and forth from 1999 to 1969 as Dr. Evil (Mike Myers in his glabrous guise) plots to destroy master spy Austin Powers (Mike Myers in his Carnaby Street aspect). Powers had been freeze-dried and, thawed out in the 90s is now honeymooning with his bride, Vanessa (Elizabeth Hurley), who turns out to be other than the person he expected. In the catchies scene of the entire work, Vanessa asks, "Do you smoke after sex"? Powers replies, "I don't know. I never look." The way Powers discovers that his wife is a fembot is a gem. While Powers ducks the fussilades aimed at him by his stripped-down wife, Dr. Evil enters his time machine to return to 1969 with the aim of stealing Powers' "mojo," which, loosely translated, is the groovy guy's libido.

Unlike "International Man of Mystery," this version treats the eponymous spy as a all-around swinger and idol and not as the nerdy oddball he portrayed two years ago. Largely a send-up of the James Bond series, the movie shows our hero fixing a cup of coffee not in the manner of Sean Connery (who could make a cappuccino in one-quarter the time of the typical Starbuck's clerk today) but mistakenly pouring the contents of a cup of stool sample into his cup and later comparing the taste to that of almonds.

There are some cute cameos, as of Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello, of Woody Harrelson and of Tim Robbins, but the biggest surprise of all is in the actor who plays a repulsive 400-pound Scotsman known as Fat Bastard. Heather Graham as Bond's CIA-based girl friend does not have the sophistication or dazzling good looks of Liz Hurley, but she has the talent for vaudevillian touches. And Mike Myers continues to charm. I feel bad for him that he lacks a more resonant script: the guy's a comic genius who can charm the pants off even an adult audience. But this time around he's in yet another vehicle that does not adequately exploit his flair for comedy, particularly his almost unique ability to assume multiple roles with vaudevillian abandon.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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