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Austin Powers:
The Spy Who Shagged Me

Review by Gregory Avery
Posted 11 June 1999

  Directed by Jay Roach

 Starring Mike Myers,
Heather Graham, Michael York,
Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Rob Lowe,
Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer,
Kristen Johnston, Gia Carides,
and Elizabeth Hurley.

Written by Mike Myers
and Michael McCullers.

"You don't get it, do you?" Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) says to the son he previously didn't know he had, in 1997's Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Along with having aspirations to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld to Austin Powers' James Bond, Dr. Evil's primary purpose in life is to come up with elaborate schemes by which he can be nefarious and cause the geo-political power structure of the world to fall into his hands. Instead of dispensing with the hero and heroine by means of rendering them helpless while menaced by scientifically-altered sharks, Dr. Evil's son (Seth Green), says, why don't they just blow them away with a gun? Dr. Evil not only looks disappointed, but sad.

While it is not only one of the few films in the last several years that has given me pure, unalloyed pleasure, I often thought that Austin Powers was best appreciated if you could remember the secret agent craze in the 60s, when Sean Connery still prowled the big screen as Ian Fleming's government agent, Patrick McGoohan did what he could to keep the free world safe on TV, Johnny Rivers could be heard singing "Secret Agent Man" on the radio, 007 aftershave was advertised in "Life" magazine, Thunderball action figures could be found in the Sears Christmas catalogue, and, when asked what three things they would most wish for, the protagonists in Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend replied, "A better car, naturally blond hair, a weekend with James Bond!"

Who would have thought that Mike Myers would so perfectly embody what is most blissfully spirited about the Swinging Sixties? Or that he would create farcical familial comedy with a parody of a Bondian supervillain? Well, the Swinging Sixties seem to be coming back with a vengeance, what with the return of martini glasses and Jackie Gleason lounge music recordings, and now Austin Powers, just like the titles at the end of the James Bond films promise, has returned.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is a derivation of The Spy Who Loved Me, arguably the worst film in the Bond series. The one that preceded it, The Man With the Golden Gun, was pretty bad, as well, not least for squandering Christopher Lee's potential as a Bond Villain. By that time, Roger Moore had replaced Sean Connery as an increasingly sedimentary James Bond, and the films had turned into primarily jokesy affairs, sometimes annoying ones at that, with in-title-only relationship with the Ian Fleming novels. When Star Wars became a hit, Bond was sent into outer space in Moonraker, the film that followed Spy Who Loved Me, with the atmospherically cooled Lois Chiles as the Bond Girl, a NASA scientist named Holly Goodhead. One really had to go all the way back to 1963's From Russia With Love to find out what had started all the excitement in the first place.

In The Spy Who Shagged Me, Mike Myers returns as both Austin Powers, the British secret agent with the remarkable overbite, and Dr. Evil, toting along his cat Mr. Bigglesworth (possibly inspired by Mrs. Fotheringale, sidekick of the archvillain Gabriel in Modesty Blaise). Myers also plays a third role as well (one I won't give away, here), but, I'm afraid, the bloom has gone off the rose.

After returning to Earth and reuniting with his son, Scott (Seth Green, recently of Idle Hands) -- on the Jerry Springer show (one of the film's more effective satirical moments) -- Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) devises a plan to go back in time to 1969, when Austin Powers was still put-on-ice, and steal his "mojo," that life essence which fuels Powers' "shaggadelic" liveliness in general and his shagging in particular. (Once removed, Dr. Evil keeps it in a little bottle, where it looks like a combination of fish bait and, dare I say it, carpet shag.) This being 1969, the year after You Only Live Twice hit the screens, Dr. Evil sets up housekeeping in a hollowed-out volcano and puts a deadly laser gun on the moon, after which he informs the U.S. President that he will refrain from blowing-up the capital of the country in exchange for a billion dollars. (The President and his staff break out laughing: is he kidding? Where are they going to get that much money from?)

Austin Powers (Mike Myers) travels back in time, as well (in a converted version of the 1990s Volkswagen Beetle), defrays being bumped-off by one of Dr. Evil's agents, a Russian model named Ivana Humpalot (Kristen Johnston), and pairs up with All-American secret agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham).

The movie, again directed by Jay Roach and written by Myers and Michael McCullers, raises ones hopes in the beginning: Dr. Evil partakes of some of Austin's "mojo" (just a sip), promptly gets-down with his Rosa Klebb-like associate Frau Farbissina (Mindy Sterling, in a hilarious performance -- she looks like Isolde once she, literally, lets her hair down), and breaks into rap argot while negotiating with the President. He also acquires a clone -- one-eighth his size, but complete with bald pate, scar, and Blofeld-like grey suit. "I shall call him Mini-Me," Dr. Evil announces, with studied presumptuousness. He starts doting on his little mirror image, much to the consternation of Scott, who also drops in to 1969, as well, so much so that he starts calling his father on every lame-o thing the elder does, such as when Dr. Evil unwittingly names his laser-on-the-moon after its inventor, the Alan Parsons Project.

While the film's veerings into the cheerfully lewd and crude aren't really any different than many others in the long, venerable tradition of anarchically silly film comedy (for one thing, Austin never executes a joke at another person's expense, but allows himself to be the butt of many a quip or a gag), the novelty of the concept begins to wear-off, and the movie leaves a lot of plot ends lying around by the time it's over. There's no particular resolution, for instance, to the competition that develops between Scott Evil, his father, and the homunculus-like clone that keeps drawing Dr. Evil's attentions towards it as if by magnetic force. Rob Lowe does a fantastically dead-on job of playing how Robert Wagner's character, Number Two, would look and sound 30 years earlier, but Lowe doesn't really get to do anything in the picture. (He got more out of his brief, marvelous appearance in a couple of scenes as a Frank Gorshin-like talent scout in The Dark Backward than he does in all of this picture.)

But this film does have two scenes that are well worth watching. (A third, if you count the surprise appearance of Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello, who composed last year's marvelous album "Painted from Memory".) One is when Austin finds himself being prodigiously walloped, but good, by Dr. Evil's tirelessly ferocious clone (all 4 feet of him, and played, to perfection, by Verne Troyer) -- he floors Powers, several times, and still won't let-up. The second is when Felicity hesitates on joining Powers in the Nineties, kind-of wanting to see what the two intervening decades would be like. Austin's reply is, not to worry: "There's a gas shortage, and A Flock of Seagulls. That's about it."

There are indications that Dr. Evil may return. For now, they may want to leave well enough alone.

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