Mike Meyers' Austintatious Sequel Has Only One Gag That Will Make You Want To Run, Screaming, From The Theater.
By James DiGiovanna
JUNE 21, 1999: THE ONLY MOVIE that opened nationwide this weekend was Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, so I have no choice but to review it here.
I was basically dreading this, as I found the first Austin Powers unbearable. I walked out of that one because the seemingly endless barrage of juvenile jokes and visual puns on breasts was a bit too much for me, and I decided my time would be more pleasurably spent chewing aluminum foil while The Backstreet Boys danced on my face.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, by how tolerable the sequel proved to be. At only one point did I feel like running from the theater and bathing in gasoline to get the stench off me, and that was during the "poop joke" sequence which has now become obligatory in any Hollywood comedy. Here's a clue: while watching this film, when you see a vial of liquefied human feces sitting next to a coffee pot, turn your head for about three minutes.
What made getting Shagged so bearable? Two things, I think: first, writer/star Mike Meyers seems to have taken stock of what worked and what didn't in the first film, and while still engaging in what didn't work, at least he winkingly acknowledges on-screen that it didn't work. Second, Heather Graham, as Austin's sidekick Felicity Shagwell, can't seem to take the movie seriously. For example, in a scene where an obese man named "Fat Bastard" is pointing a gun at her, she can't stop smiling and giggling. When she has to speak a line, she puts on the requisite serious face, but whenever she's not speaking it seems that she's struck giddy by how stupid the whole scenario is.
It's deeply amusing to watch Graham anti-react to her surroundings. She's actually a very competent actress, having turned in extremely believable and compelling performances in Two Girls and a Guy and Boogie Nights, even if she couldn't do much with her breast-oriented role in the execrable Lost in Space. In Spy Who Shagged Me, on the other hand, she seems like someone who won a part in a movie by entering a wet T-shirt contest at Planet Hollywood.
It's not that she's bad in the part...she's probably the best thing about the movie. It's just that she acts like she's completely amazed to be involved, let alone wearing a '60s retro mini-dress, holding a zany ray gun, and sitting in a groovy space ship.
Her enjoyment of it is infectious, really--like an audience member has been transported onto the screen and is having some giggles for us.
She works in this film in exactly the way Elizabeth Hurley didn't work in the last one. Hurley is incredibly beautiful, but still pretends that she was hired for her acting skills. She seems like someone who has had everything easy, but still insists on putting forward an air of intensity, as though her life has been truly difficult and she's overcome it by sheer willpower alone--and that she can just stand around in lingerie and get paid ridiculously vast sums of cash for it is completely immaterial.
While Graham is every bit as attractive, she never plays like she's struggling, or even like she's working. She just seems to be having a ball. And her eyes take up about three quarters of her head, which adds to her air of joyful wonder.
The plot of Spy Who Shagged Me is drawn from every James Bond and Flint movie from the aforementioned '60s. It seems that Dr. Evil, after a quick appearance on Jerry Springer (in an episode entitled "My Dad Is Evil And Wants To Take Over The World"), has gone back in time to steal Austin's mojo.
That accomplished, he heads to the moon where his "laser" (he puts air quotes around everything) is aimed at Washington, D.C., which he'll destroy unless he's paid $100 billion by the president.
Austin and Felicity must, of course, swim onto Dr. Evil's secret volcanic island, don a series of sexy outfits, and chase him into space in order to display the effects of zero gravity on breast tissue. And they must do this while making every possible sexual reference and innuendo known to man, all while staying within the bounds of a PG-13 rating.
This winds up being far more amusing than the previous Austin Powers film, so if you liked that one, and you think you'd enjoy a long visual gag about pulling dozens of improbable things out of someone's butt, then this one will certainly keep you entertained for a couple hours between bouts of forwarding e-mail jokes and downloading celebrity porn.
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