Studio/distributor: New Line
Rated: Rated PG-13 for sexual innuendo and crude humor.
When the original "Austin Powers" was released
in 1997, it didn't make that great deal of an impression and
was never really expected to, but it garnered many positive
reviews, had low drop-off box-office rates each week, and
became a pop-culture phenomenon once it hit video stores.
Now we have "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,"
which will be sure to go down as one of the few sequels to
do better financially than its predecessor (if the sold-out
crowd I saw it with is any indication). The terms, "Yeah,
baby, yeah!" and "let's shag, baby," have been
ingrained in most moviegoers' minds due to the original, and
when was the last time a movie created its own vernacular,
and audiences followed?
Getting off to a brisk, but disappointing start, this film
continues where the first left off, with Austin Powers (Mike
Myers) and Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley) on their
romantic honeymoon. Within five minutes time, it is discovered
that Vanessa was a dreaded fembot all along, a henchman of
Dr Evil's (Myers). Realizing he's a single man again, Austin
doesn't take too much time grieving before he learns that
Dr. Evil has created a time machine, gone back to 1969 when
Austin was cryogenically frozen, and stolen his "mojo."
In hot pursuit, Austin time travels back to the swingin' '60s
himself, meets up with beautiful and "randy" CIA
agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham), and together they
set out to get his "mojo" back. But that's not all,
as Dr. Evil also is plotting to destroy Washington, D.C. if
his demands (several billion dollars) aren't met.
"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" has, thankfully,
created the same atmosphere that the mildly successful first
one set up. From the first frame to the last, it is apparent
that we've stepped back into the world of Austin Powers, but
that doesn't mean that the new movie is as good, and it isn't.
For one thing, the whole prologue is a gigantic betrayal of
both Austin Powers fans and Elizabeth Hurley. Making her turn
out to be a fembot will, from now on, seriously put a damper
on the way people watch the original, because now we know
that she didn't even actually care about him at all, but was
on the "evil side." It also creates a noticably
large plot hole: If Vanessa Kensington was a fembot, then
her mother, Mrs. Kensington (played by Mimi Rogers in the
original), also had to have been, and this little fact is
not dealt with at all in the uneven screenplay, by Mike Myers
and Michael McCullers. If Hurley didn't want to appear for
more than a brief cameo, the filmmakers surely could have
thought of a stronger way for her to go out.
Just watching "Austin Powers" right before I saw
its sequel, I noticed another downfall. While the first one
was not hilarious, it was light, charming, and occasionally
funny. In "The Spy Who Shagged Me," there might
be some bigger laughs (the sure-to-be-classic "tent scene"
comes to mind), but there are also just as many jokes that
fall astoundingly flat, and others that are merely recycled.
The film has opted for the "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink"
approach, and in doing so, has forgotten about all of the
returning characters who, in essence, are nothing more than
extended cameos. Seth Green, as Dr. Evil's misunderstood son,
Scott, comes close to breaking out into his own person (especially
when he appears on a Jerry Springer episode, entitled "My
Father is Evil and Wants to Take Over the World"), but
there is no payoff. Robert Wagner, as another of Dr. Evil's
henchmen, Number 2, has all of one scene, until Dr. Evil goes
back in time and the role is taken over by the younger Rob
Lowe (who does a killer impression of Wagner). Mindy Sterling
has a few nice moments as assistant Frau Farbissina who, midway
through, has a steamy affair with Dr. Evil, and later shares
an uncomfortable moment with him by the coffee machine.
The new characters are a memorable, if underused, bunch.
Taking over the romantic interest role from Hurley, Heather
Graham is energetic and has proven to be a fine actress (see
1997's "Boogie Nights" or 1989's "Drugstore
Cowboy" for proof), but here doesn't get to stretch her
acting muscles, and her relationship with Austin feels a little
more forced than that of Vanessa and he. The bright spot in
the film is Mini Me (Verne J. Troyer), a clone of Dr. Evil,
only 1/8 his size. Troyer is often hysterical and even cute,
and his relationship with Dr. Evil is actually a sweet one.
Going for a "Nutty Professor"/Eddie Murphy type
of deal, Myers has given himself a third role, as Fat Bastard,
a repugnant Scot who weighs a "metric ton" and,
at one point, has a disgusting roll in the hay with one of
the female characters. In the wasted department are the two
femme fatales, Ivana Humpalot (Kristen Johnston) and Robin
"maiden-name's-Spits" Swallows (Gia Carides), who
show up, do their thang, and quickly disappear.
Of course, in the forefront of the whole operation is Mike
Myers, who is comic dynamite and doesn't disappoint. Much
of the joy that comes from watching Myers (whether it be as
Austin or Wayne) is actually watching him. He clearly has
a great love for performing, and especially for his Powers
character, and his talent only shines through more when considering
all of the different roles he plays here. You know going in
that Dr. Evil is also played by Myers, but while watching
him, it's easy to forget such a thing because of how utterly
convincing he is.
With "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," what
you see is what you get. There is certainly no deep meanings
behind anything that occurs within the 95-minute running time,
and it has a fast pace so your mind won't wander too much.
The fact that a third "Austin Powers" movie will
probably be coming out at this time in 2001 is a given, but
after seeing his second adventure, you have to wonder how
many times the same jokes can be played out before they start
to overstay their welcome. Having Austin say "yeah, baby,
yeah!" was amusing the first time around, but it isn't
here. And judging from this not-bad, but lackluster first
sequel, Myers should start brainstorming his ideas now for
the next installment. A little bit of variety and originality
may very well come in handy in the future.