Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged MeReviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 06/09/99 01:09:53
The sequel to Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery is a strong stand alone comedy, and a welcome return to the screen for fans of Mike Myers' work. But there's also some smart thinking gone into making this film. Austin Powers, essentially a one joke character, just doesn't have what it takes to make us laugh with the same old gags, but Dr Evil, his arch nemesis, has enough juice to not only make this film enjoyable in the extreme, but also squeeze another few sequels out of the franchise.Let's be honest - we've all been at the party where some drunken frat-brat thinks he can do the lines as well as Mike Myers and proceeds to yell loud "YEEEEEEAH BAYBEEE"s until he falls face-first into the salmon mousse. We've seen it, and we giggled the first few times. And then we stopped giggling. And then we started to walk away from them.
And now we're supposed to embrace the original again. As much as we want to (and I really did) Austin Powers the character is an old joke doing an old joke. His lines have been done to death, his scenes from the first can be repeated but not bettered, and he's starting to fray at the edges. Does this mean the end of the line?
Excuse my French, but fuck no. Showing startling nous, Myers has made the second Austin Powers film a cinematic tag-out to Dr Evil, a character with much more depth, much more comedy potential and the kind of act that Myers just nails to the fucking floor.
Every facial twitch, every joke, every scene that Doctor Powers is involved in is nigh perfect comedy. For a reviewer who never ever laughs out loud at the screen to guffaw out loud throughout is either a sign of excessive ecstasy use or a damn funny movie. In this case it was the latter.
I'm not going to go into the story (which is full of plotholes, but you don't care - story isn't what you go to an Austin Powers movie for), just suffice it to say that it's secondary to the comedy.
The performances are outstanding. Myers is sublime, though in his Powers incarnation he often struggles to match the sublime brilliance of his Dr Evil. He also chimes in with some heavy make-up as Fat Bastard, a Scottish double-agent who is more disgusting than the exploding fatty in Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life.
Heather Graham, as CIA femme-agent Felicity Shagwell, is not only stunning, but loving every minute. Not only a great replacement for Liz Hurley, but a vast improvement on the "nod'n'smile" routine she provided last time out.
Robert Wagner returns as Number 2, and is joined by Rob Lowe as "younger Number 2", the kind of role Lowe is resigned to nowadays (Wayne's World, Tommy Boy), but manages to pull off well enough.
Seth Green has returned as Scott Evil and the kid just keeps getting better. Harangued by a Dr Evil midget clone (Mini-Me) and fighting for his father's attention, he's a fine diversion and a good way to punch the occasional joke that doesn't quite work until he adds an "...ass".
The real comedy genius of this movie is in the subtleties. It's the lines you can barely hear during a fight scene on the Jerry Springer show ("the little fucker is biting me!"), it's the guy in the background holding a Swedish Penis Enlarger, it's the drool rolling down Fat Bastard's chin, the snap of Mustafa's bones in the distance. The writers don't always go for the biggest laugh, they'll usually go for the third biggest, then slip in the second, then end with the biggest. The result is just hysterical. When you think a scene is done with, it just keeps going a bit longer, slapping one last giggle on you, then another, then another.
There's gross-out humor, there's adult humor, there's innuendo, there's sarcasm, and then there's intelligent humor that you can almost miss if you're not aware it's out there.
So what's the down-side? Well, the realisation that Austin Powers as a character has nothing left. He has used his quota of "oh, behave"s and "yeah baby"s and after that there's precious little left for him to offer. The comedy involving Austin is nowhere near as good as that involving Dr Evil and that's a shame.But so long as Dr Evil is such a rich vein of giggles, and new characters continue to join the ranks and add to the flavor, it's well worth keeping Powers around for one last episode.
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