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Weekly Alibi Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Mojo A Go-Go

By Devin D. O'Leary

JUNE 21, 1999:  The original Austin Powers movie was a bit of a surprise for everyone. Back in 1997, moviegoers didn't know what to expect from a low-budget, psychedelic spy spoof. The filmmakers over at tiny New Line Cinema weren't even sure their offbeat $18 million comedy could compete against a summer film season threatened by such mega-budget fare as The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Nonetheless, the film went on to clear $54 million at the box office based on some terrific word of mouth. The film solidified star Mike Myers' role as a serious (or not so serious, as the case may be) box office draw and, since its videocassette release, has spent a record-setting 64 weeks on the top 10 home video sales charts. A sequel, of course, was inevitable.

Unlike Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me does not have its predecessor's advantage of anonymity. Myers and crew now have a rep to uphold. In a summer movie season already choking on hype ("Paging Mr. Lucas?"), filmgoers can certainly be forgiven for a little caution. Can the new Austin Powers possibly live up to the gut-busting standard set by the original? In a word (or two): Yeah, baby!

In the first Austin Powers film, ex-"SNL"er Mike Myers took on the unlikely role of a cryogenically frozen swingin' '60s superspy, awakened in 1990s London in order to defeat his archenemy, the pinkie-sucking Dr. Evil (also played by Myers). The film was a deliciously twisted send-up of both the James Bond franchise and the sexually liberated, sartorially challenged 1960s. In this newest Powers trip, it seems that nasty Dr. Evil has invented a time machine, which he uses to go back to the 1960s and steal Austin Powers' "mojo." Stripped of his famed sexual prowess, Powers must venture back in time to his old swinging ground to recapture his lost libido and defeat the insidious Dr. Evil.

Myers continues his bid to become the Peter Sellers of the '90s by portraying no less than three of the main characters in The Spy Who Shagged Me. In addition to Powers and Evil, Myers takes on the role of Fat Bastard, a disgustingly obese Scottish assassin. As always, Myers is in top form. By his own estimates, some 40 percent of The Spy Who Shagged Me is improvised. Left to his own devices as either the randy Powers or the villainous Evil, Myers could riff for hours. Occasionally, certain gags hit a dead end with Myers reduced to simple mugging. Still, there are so many opportunities for humor here, that the rare clinker is soon buried under a landslide of bright gags, rapid-fire in-jokes and outrageous costumes. Fortunately, the supporting cast is up to the improv challenge and has little trouble keeping pace with Myers' one-man show.

Seth Green is a welcome returnee as Dr. Evil's petulant "quasi-evil" son Scott Evil. The Evil family squabbles ("I've got a whole bag of Shhh! right here.") were some of the most amusing moments in the first Austin Powers, and a bout of father/son reckoning on "The Jerry Springer Show" is one of The Spy Who Shagged Me's more breathlessly funny bits of pop culture appropriation. Heather Graham (still riding the high/low sinewave of Boogie Nights and Lost in Space) climbs on board as Powers' shag du jour, CIA operative Felicity Shagwell. Comedy aside, the sight of Heather Graham in hotpants is worth the price of admission alone. The film's most memorable addition, though, is a one-eighth size clone of Dr. Evil dubbed Mini-Me (32-inch actor Verne Troyer). A WWF-inspired showdown between Powers and this rabid little Chihuahua of a villain is as funny as it is politically incorrect.

Political incorrectness was one of the major comedic touchstones in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Watching the shagadelic superspy adjust to life in the monogamous, politically correct 1990s provided much of the original film's humor. In this new film, Myers ups the ante with a non-stop barrage of randy innuendo and clever double entendre. A sequence in which a dozen or so metaphors are offered up as descriptions for Dr. Evil's rather phallic-looking spaceship is guaranteed to dislodge vital organs near one's diaphragm. The sequence is so damn funny, Myers manages to stage it all over again near the film's climax -- and it's still funny! With the first film to build on, Myers has also added a whole new level of self-referential humor. A car chase through "the English countryside," for example, is punctuated by Myers' observation about "how little the English countryside looks like Southern California."

Fans can rest assured everything that worked in the original Austin Powers is at play here. The Spy Who Shagged Me easily equals, if not surpasses, its predecessor's impressive laugh quotient. With an increased budget and an indefatigable comic spirit, Myers and director Jay Roach (who helmed the first Austin) gift us with some deliriously irreverent comedy, some deviously clever lampooning and a host of outrageously psychedelic set-pieces. Do I make you horny, baby?

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