austin.gif - 12952 Bytes Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged Me
*1/2 Stars
(US 1999) Rated PG-13

Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Rob Lowe, Mindy Sterling and Elizabeth Hurley
Directed by Jay Roach

Writing credits: Mike Myers and Michael McCullers

New Line Cinema * 95 minutes

Elvis Costello, we hardly knew ye. First NOTTING HILL, now this? What happened to the Angry Young Man of "Two Little Hitlers" fame?

You know you're getting old when Elvis Costello is singing with Burt Bachrach and George Clinton is scoring films. You also know you're getting old when you sit in a theatre at 10:00 PM on a Tuesday night, snoozing as you wait for the picture to start, watching the theatre fills up -- and not a one of the patrons is over age 25. And you're positive you're getting old when three genuinely funny, if cheap, laughs just don't compensate for an overall mess.

AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY was a rare gem -- a stupid, sophomoric comedy that was fresh, different, and funny. In an attempt to capture lightning in a bottle twice, Mike Myers and New Line Cinema have released the inevitable sequel, AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME.

If you saw MAN OF MYSTERY, you know the plot already. Austin Powers (Mike Myers), he of the shag-carpeted (so to speak) chest, lousy teeth, and leering sense of humor, fights the megalomaniacal Dr. Evil (also Mike Myers), with the help of a bodacious female sidekick (this time it's Felicity Shagwell, portrayed by Heather Graham). After much toilet humor and many double entendres, some time travel, and a cheesy action sequence, Our Boy Austin triumphs -- and gets the girl.

When we first met Austin Powers, he was likeable in a goofy sort of way, because he was a fish out of water -- a swingin' Carnaby Street sixties kind of rat-pack guy in the politically correct nineties. The endearing thing about Austin in that film was that he was so utterly clueless about what an unattractive loser he was.

In caving to the studios' need to milk as many bucks as possible out of an idea, Myers makes the same mistake in THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME as he did in the second WAYNE'S WORLD film. Once his "clueless loser" characters become hip, happening guys, bedding gorgeous babes with silicone implants and wonder bras, they lose their charm. And so has Our Austin. The result -- a shamelessly self-referential mess, full of overdone schtick...a film so self-conscious that it's financial success must serve as a sign that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are surely on their way.

The film starts promisingly with a hilarious opening credits sequence, one which takes the "put something in front of the naughty bits" scenes from the first film and stretches it, Tex Avery-like, to a logical extreme. Dual hams on a tray in front of Myers' buttocks, two Hasidic guys carving a long roast, and the names of the participants responsible for the film, all superimposed on Myers' privates as he dances gleefully through the hotel.

Another particularly satisfying moment occurs as Elizabeth Hurley, who in a ten-minute cameo is revealed to be a fembot, self-destructs. Ah, the possibilities are endless: Claudia Schiffer? BOOM! Tyra Banks? BOOM! Rebecca Romijn (who appears in a cameo role)? BOOM!


The whole fembot thing is strange, for the breasts-as-torpedos thing seems to me to be a strange male anxiety, right up there with vagina dentata.

Indeed, the entire film seems to be based on three themes: male sexual anxiety (the loss of Austin's mojo), scatological fixation, and fear/loathing of fat people, the latter in the form of a Myers creation called, unfortunately, Fat Bastard. In a way, Fat Bastard, offensive as he is, is initially an innovative character, until the script caves in and forces him to hate himself because of his weight. Sure he's disgusting, but his seeming confidence in his own sexuality, in a Henry VIII-esque bed/eating scene with Heather Graham, is peculiarly refreshing. However, the only real reason that Fat Bastard is amusing is that Scottish accents are always good for a cheap laugh. If you don't agree with me, ask Ewan McGregor...or if your proclivities are more oriented toward Star Trek than Star Wars, James Doohan.

The entire cast seems to have a rollicking good time. Rob Lowe, who has created an interesting second career doing nothing but self-parody, creates a perfectly dead-on Robert Wagner during the time travel sequence. Kristen Johnston, of 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN, is a blowsy caricature of a sex bomb, as the unfortunately-named Ivana Humpalot. A particularly suggestive chess-playing scene, involving simulated fellatio with the White King, is lifted right from the famous eating scene in 1963's TOM JONES, released only a year prior to the period represented by Mr. Powers himself. Heather Graham, a beautiful actress, has never looked better, and it's nice to see her having a good time for a change. She has a sweet, vulnerable quality that makes her more appealing than Elizabeth Hurley's dominatrix, but somewhat less effective.

Seth Green is appropriately sulky as Dr. Evil's somewhat estranged son, who knows perfectly well that his father is an idiot. Michael York, another formerly gorgeous English actor, appears to have been facially lifted as Austin's boss, and Verne J. Troyer, as the Dr. Evil clone Mini-Me, is just bizarre.

Despite three genuine laugh moments, some good performances, and Mike Myers' inherent appeal, the overall effect of THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME is "been there, done that." The trademark "Oh, BEHAVE!" line is becoming as tired as "Where's the beef?", Dr. Evil's finger sucking and quotation-mark gestures are equally overdone, and there's an overall forced air about the entire enterprise.

Deena Appel's costumes are perfect reproductions of ghastly mod sixties gear, and the "Laugh-In" dance bits are also perfectly done. However, much of the music is a bit out of sequence, hailing from later in the decade than the early 70's dreck music used in the soundtrack songs.

Early returns indicate that the Austin Powers franchise is not going to leave us any time soon. This is a shame, because rather than being an amalgam of some of Mike Myers' best SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE material, it more closely echoes an older SNL sketch: "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave."


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Review text copyright © 1999 Cozzi fan Tutti except where indicated as © the author. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text in whole or in part in any form or in any medium without express written permission of Cozzi fan Tutti is prohibited.

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