Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

I’ve read several negative reviews of “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” Their main gripe was that the sequel was just more of the same. Really? No kidding? You see, that is the beauty of spoofing films like those in the James Bond series. Most of the Bond films were nothing more than mutant versions of themselves. Bigger budgets. Bigger set pieces. Still, it all boiled down to either a madman or criminal genius holding the world for ransom.

AUSTIN IS BACK: YEAH, BABY. If you didn’t like the first “Austin Powers” film, then by all means stay away. There is nothing here for you. I loved the first Austin Powers film, “International Man of Mystery.” While I’m not as passionate about “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” I did manage to laugh a lot and leave the theater with a big grin on my face.

I’m not one of those people who feel the need to put a gun to the screen and demand to be entertained. I love movies. Always have. Always will. My formative years were spent watching the very films “Austin Powers” sends up, so there’s a special connection there.

I spent many, many Saturday afternoons watching double bills of “Matt Helm” and “Flint” movies. That’s why I find it immensely funny when Austin Power’s has the same phone ring as Derek Flint.

I got all of the references and in-jokes. I found myself laughing more often than not, and to me that is the bottom line.

Parodies are a difficult beast to tame. They demand constant attention and affection. The best parodies (“Airplane” “Young Frankenstein”) always respect the source material while sending them up. You have to believe in the premise for the outrageous comedy to stick. Neglect can lead to such disasters as “Repossessed.”

Writer-star Mike Myers shows a lot of respect for the genre he is spoofing. His approach is more of the wink-wink, nod-nod variety. He pokes fun at the rules of the game without feeling the need to rip the genre a new rear end.

Like all sequential Bond films, “The Spy Who Shagged Me” is bigger than the original. Production designer Rusty Smith does an excellent job of aping Ken Adam’s “You Only Live Twice” and “Moonraker” sets, while art director Alexander Hammond and costume designer Deena Appel nail that far-out, groovy 60’s look to a tee.

Their day-glow sets get a good workout in the Mike Myers-Michael McCullers’ script that picks up exactly where “International Man of Mystery” left off. Austin is enjoying his honeymoon with Vanessa (Elizabeth Hurley, only briefly) when unexpected circumstances free him from matrimony, allowing Austin to do the two things he does best: shag and spy.

There’s plenty of both as Powers’ arch-enemy, Dr. Evil (Myers, once again) returns from his cryogenic orbit, thawed and ready to wreak havoc once again.

The thin as rice paper plot has Dr. Evil inventing a time machine and going back in time to steal Austin’s “mojo,” thus rendering him helpless in the present. Austin is forced to travel back in time to stop Dr. Evil, and is assisted by agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham, the right mixture of beauty and balls).

Once again, Dr. Evil holds the world for ransom, threatening to blow it up city by city with a giant laser he has constructed on the moon.

The writers have lined “The Spy Who Shagged Me” with enough new jokes and characters to keep even the most adamant Austin Powers fan happy. Verne Troyer is absolutely priceless as Dr. Evil’s diminutive clone Mini-Me, while Rob Lowe does a killer impersonation of Robert Wagner, playing the younger version of Wagner’s Number Two.

Familiar faces return, including Seth Green as Dr. Evil’s son Scott, still dealing with his feelings about having a villain for a father. So distraught is Scott over his father that he goes on a Jerry Springer show entitled “My Father is Evil and Wants to Take Over the World.”

It’s nice to see Mindy Sterling’s Frau Farbissina expanded into more than a couple of lines. Sterling is such a gifted comedian that it was a shame to see her talents wasted in the first film. Here, she shines as the wicked Lotte Lenya-type from “From Russia with Love.”

There’s much to admire in “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” even if the toilet humor floats to the surface more than in the first film. The spirit of the film is engaging, and director Jay Roach manages to hit most of the intended targets.

Even though the film is lined with in-jokes and classic references, the humor is broad enough to encompass all age groups. One of my favorite bits was a cleverly edited sequence where people try to describe Dr. Evil’s spaceship.

Myers looks to have another hit on his hands. The original “Austin Powers” wasn’t a big hit in theaters ($57 million gross), but the goodwill it has generated on video, DVD and on cable poise it to be huge at the box office. Fans won’t be disappointed. Those looking for something more meaty, go to Sizzler.

Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Rob Lowe, Mindy Sterling, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Tim Robbins in a film directed by Jay Roach. Rated PG-13. 93 Minutes.

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