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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (review)

Yeah, Baby

I was sort of down on Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery when I reviewed it here way back in November 1997. But it has grown on me in the intervening months to the point where I was eagerly awaiting the sequel. And my anticipation was rewarded nicely by Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Of course, the Austin Powers movies are best viewed with a large group of goofy people (as I noted in my earlier review), and the fact that I saw The Spy Who Shagged Me with a theater full of randy (oh, behave!), rowdy Austin-maniacs probably made a huge contribution to my enjoyment of it. From the film’s hilarious Star Wars-esque opening crawl, accompanied by an ode to Dr. Evil that sounds as if it’s lifted right from an old Bond flick, to the final gag after the end credits, it was impossible not to get caught up in the mob’s utter delight in this utterly silly movie.
There’s minimal plot to interfere with all the goofiness, but what plot there is revolves around a plan by Austin Powers’s (Mike Myers, from 54) archenemy Dr. Evil (also Myers) to finally defeat Austin once and for all. Dr. Evil’s theory? “Austin Powers always defeats me because he has mojo.” Using his “time machine” (Evil mimes the quotes around the words), Evil and his one-eighth-size clone, his beloved Mini-Me (Verne Troyer, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Men in Black), head back from 1999 to 1969 to steal the mojo from the cryogenically frozen Austin.

So, where International Man of Mystery got its conflict from Austin’s displacement in time, making a playboy from the 60s an amusing anachronism in the 90s, The Spy Who Shagged Me now sees the spy unable to, er, shag. As Austin says sadly to himself, “You were a swinger, man, and now you’re nothing.” Luckily, the Ministry of Defence just happens to have its own time machine, a new Beetle with a psychedelic paint job (a shagadelic version of Back to the Future‘s DeLorean), so Austin flies back to his own time. “I’m back in the 60s, baby, yeah!” he says, in ecstasy, when he lands in a groovy London dance club, bikini-clad girls dancing in cages and all.

Like its predecessor, The Spy Who Shagged Me is loaded with cheap bathroom humor, which is doubly disappointing when it’s clear from the movie how truly clever Myers (who cowrote the film) can be. Though some of their bits go on just a tad too long, the interplay between Dr. Evil and his son, Scott (more than ably played by Seth Green, from Enemy of the State), is ingenious. Scott is the skeptical voice of the audience, constantly exasperated with his dad’s ineptitude, which is the ineptitude of every B-movie bad guy whose convoluted and less-than-logical shenanigans ensure that the movie lasts at least ninety minutes. When an annoyed Scott exclaims, “You’re gonna put him [Austin] in a cell with one inept guard and he’ll escape,” we can simultaneous sympathize with Scott and accept the silly necessity of Dr. Evil’s behavior.

Happily, though, for every easy joke — swipes at Starbucks and Jerry Springer (Scott appears on an episode entitled “My Father Is Evil and Wants to Take Over the World”), for instance — there are clever references to old Bond movies and plays on the conventions of the spy-movie genre as well as the economics of filmmaking (Isn’t it odd, Austin asks directly into the camera, how England looks nothing at all like Southern California?). There’s also an outrageously funny sequence that incorporates every euphemism imaginable for the word penis.

Almost worth the price of admission alone is seeing Rob Lowe’s (Contact) dead-to-rights impersonation of Robert Wagner — Lowe plays 1969’s younger version of Wagner’s Number Two, Dr. Evil’s sidekick. Who’da thunk Robert Wagner could be imitated? Mike Myers is amusing in multiple roles, including the very un-P.C. Fat Bastard, a Scotsman who “weighs a metric ton,” eats babies, and works for Dr. Evil. But Myers best moment comes when Dr. Evil finally gets his hands on Austin’s mojo — Austin’s randy spirit suddenly emanates from the high-strung Evil, and watching Myers play these two characters at once is a riot.

Good-natured and unpretentious, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is mostly pretty groovy, baby.

[reader comments on this review]

viewed at a public multiplex screening

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