Review: Maybe, baby, you can resist 'Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me'
June 10, 1999
By Reviewer Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- The tag line for Mike Myers' latest contribution to not much of anything, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," reads "First he fought for the Crown. Now he's fighting for the Family Jewels." That's about as inventive as it gets. The movie is exactly what everyone knows it's going to be, namely, a 90-minute collection of purposefully stupid puns and pop culture references strung together by a bunch of almost unrelated "scenes."
That it's sporadically amusing at best is all that's required to make it a huge success. Whatever funny stuff you saw in the trailer is here, of course, and catch phrases from the original film get repeated ... which is good because it's finally gotten to the point where people laugh hardest at what they've seen and heard before.
There's also the usual gaggle of extremely hot, mini-skirted women. Everybody at your office should be howling over it any day now, mainly because they're expected to and can't be bothered to think any differently.
The dollar-greased wheels of the entertainment industry -- that hyperventilating circle-jerk of product, promotion, promotion, promotion, promotion, and pretend dissection -- have already deemed this one worthy of your bucks, and nothing that anyone writes or says about it is likely to stop you from seeing it. So go.
You might, however, take the time to wonder why something like this (which ultimately isn't much better than those "Saturday Night Live" movies that everyone's so happy to retch over) passes for a hit comedy nowadays.
Not too much to expect, really
It's impossible to properly review these things anymore. If you imply that character rather than characterization is what makes for real comedy, everyone moans that you're expecting too much from something so silly. If you complain that the jokes are endlessly repetitive, with punchlines that get invoked several times within scenes, let alone over the course of the entire film, you're a killjoy. If you can actually detect that there's not an ounce of rhythm to the movie as a whole (albeit with a couple of chuckle-worthy set pieces springing to life amid the wandering), it all gets defended as a wonderful lark.
Well, of course it's a lark. But why are we as an audience so incapable of measuring just how minuscule its "wonderfulness" actually is?
If you saw the first one, you've seen this one, too, except that Heather Graham replaces Liz Hurley as a Really Great Chest and director Jay Roach points the camera in a couple of happenin' new directions. Myers, as you well know, is Austin Powers, the dentally challenged British super-spy with the hyperactive libido.
He also plays Powers' arch nemesis, Dr. Evil. This time around, the baldheaded "genius" hatches a diabolical plot to travel back in time and steal Austin's Mojo, i.e. the oozing sexuality that draws women to him like a magnet.
World's demise gives movie an excuse to end
Part of the film takes place in 1999, but the majority of it is set in the late '60s. Austin is, among other things, trying to stop Dr. Evil from blowing up the world with a super ray gun that he's built on the moon. (In one of the better bits of foolishness, Evil has named the contraption "The Alan Parsons Project.")
The main reason Dr. Evil wants to blow up the planet, as far as I can tell, is so the movie will actually have a place to end, rather than spinning on forever with the cast shooting, punning, and "shagging" to the betterment of humanity.
The scenes blend into each other without the least sense of comic urgency. Again, this isn't asking a hell of a lot, so don't get all excited. Just because the aim is to make you laugh, that doesn't mean that structure and momentum have to be thrown out the window. There could've been a lot more accomplished here while still retaining the all-important level of idiocy.
As it is, Myers and a couple of guest stars -- including Robert Wagner and Rob Lowe, who plays Wagner back in the '60s, and has the voice nailed -- are the main attractions, with the exquisitely mod clothes and psychedelic production design serving as a backdrop to routines that could've been generated in any decade, in virtually any intrigue-related situation. Of course, half the time they don't have anything to do with the situation at all.
Austin is horny, you see, but he loses his horniness when Dr. Evil's henchman (a drastically obese, gas-passing Scotsman, also played by Myers) swipes his Mojo. Graham plays Felicity Shagwell ("Yeah, baby!"), the fellow spy who finds herself falling for our man Austin. She drives a groovy Corvette that's painted to look like an American flag. She wears extremely revealing clothing ("Oh, behave!") That's your performance.
Graham: Drop the comedy
Graham has proven herself to be a solid actress several times in the past, but her Felicity is constructed out of rote dialogue recitation. Honestly, she's so fruitlessly lackadaisical you'd think she memorized the lines three minutes before the cameras started rolling. Graham would be well served to drop the comedy, regardless of the paycheck, and return to giving performances that contain some meat beyond her memorable cleavage.
There are a handful of pretty funny scenes, especially an appearance by Dr. Evil and his teen-age son on "The Jerry Springer Show." But the most serviceable joke is Dr. Evil's oft-revealed soft spot for a miniature clone of himself, which he names Mini-Me. Mini-Me is played by an actor named Verne Troyer, and, if there's any movie to steal, he gets away with it. The performance is wordless, but Troyer's faux-innocent reaction shots are priceless.
Mini-Me has a tendency to bite, and he usually bites his cohorts. Dr. Evil doesn't care, though. He loves his clone nearly as much as he loves himself. Mini-Me's also pretty good with a jab, as evidenced when he attacks Powers and nearly beats him into bruised submission.
I guess somebody had to do it.
Part three undoubtedly comes next, then a Christmas video box containing the trilogy. Yeah, baby!
There's an abundance of fatuous, rather routine sex-related jokes in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," including one sequence in which a silhouette of Felicity and Austin suggests that she's pounding various items up his keester. There's also a lot of poop jokes; at one point, Austin drinks a big gulp of liquefied fecal matter. Try not to run over anybody on your way to the theater. Rated PG-13. 92 minutes.
"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" is a production of CNN Interactive sister company New Line Cinema, a Time-Warner property.
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