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Should I Watch..? Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
What's the big deal?
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is an action spy comedy film released in 1999 and is the second instalment of the Austin Powers series. It is a sequel to Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1) and once again sees creator Mike Myers return as both the swinging Sixties super spy Austin Powers and his arch nemesis Dr Evil. It is largely a spoof of the James Bond franchise although it ridicules other pop culture aspects as well. The film marks the debut for characters Mini-Me and Fat Bastard, who is also played by Myers. The film was a huge success at the box office, taking more in its opening weekend than the first film did in its entire run. It eventually went on to gross around $312 million worldwide and even secured an Oscar nomination.
What's it about?
After escaping an attempt on his life when his wife Vanessa turns out to be a fembot, Austin Powers is called back into action once again after Dr Evil resurfaces on "The Jerry Springer Show". At his Seattle headquarters, Dr Evil is introduced to a diminutive clone of himself that he calls Mini-Me whilst explaining his latest plan. Using a time machine of his own, he intends to go back in time to the Sixties whilst Austin is cryogenically frozen and remove his mojo - the apparent source of his sexual power - with the aid of Fat Bastard, a disgruntled Scottish Guard working as a double agent.
In the present, Austin quickly discovers that his mojo has been taken and reasons that Dr Evil must be responsible. Travelling back to the Sixties himself, Austin meets up with CIA agent Felicity Shagwell who is already pursuing Dr Evil and head to intercept the bald-headed baddie at his secret volcano lair. But Dr Evil's plans are much greater and more deadly than he or Felicity ever imagined...
Austin Powers / Dr Evil / Fat Bastard
Young Number Two
Mike Myers & Michael McCullers *
Release Date (UK)
30th July, 1999
Action, Comedy, Spy
Academy Award Nomination
What's to like?
Despite the reappearance of familiar gags and jokes, the film does still have some quality laughs of its own. It would be impossible for me to go on without mentioning Troyer's perfect portrayal of Mini-Me who gets most of the laughs in this movie. His fight scene with Myers is a wonderful piece of violent slapstick and is probably the highlight of the entire film. But it's Myers who once again runs riot through the picture, as you'd expect from someone playing both the lead hero and lead villain. Austin's childish humour and crude innuendo doesn't particularly appeal to me but as Dr Evil, he once again sends up the Bond film's collection of larger-than-life super villains.
The film's bright and colourful enough to mimic the psychedelic excesses of the Sixties whilst providing all the justification needed to get Graham in crushed velvet hot-pants. The story is just about enough to sustain the picture whilst doing away with the whole man-out-of-time subplot from the first film. So this is a funny, if slightly puerile, spy spoof with good performances from the cast and enough material to make the Bond series look as ridiculous as it sometimes is. What more could you ask for?
- Dr Evil's trademark gesture is an extended little finger to the corner of the mouth. The muscle which extends this finger is called the Extensor Digiti Minimi. True story.
- With the word "shag" having strong sexual connotations, the title underwent numerous changes depending on where it was released. In Finland, the title translated as The Spy Who Bumped Me while in China, it was called The Spy Who Liked Me A Lot.
- The soundtrack contains the track Beautiful Stranger by Madonna which won a Grammy. Myers appears in the video as Austin which was directed by Brett Ratner.
What's not to like?
Personally, I'd have liked someone to veto some of Myers' ideas. Take the thoroughly unpleasant character of Fat Bastard - not only is he utterly repugnant and unnecessary but Myers' corny Scottish accent is dusted off for another outing, as if Shrek (2) wasn't enough. It does feel as if everything went to his head and he felt like doing the entire movie by himself - which he ultimately tries to do in Austin Powers in Goldmember (3). It wouldn't surprise me if he attempted to direct at some point as well.
There is some colossal product placement that leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, poor old Seth Green has nothing to do as Scott besides wrestle with Mini-Me for Dr Evil's affections and the same problem affects the first film as well - ultimately, there is only so much mileage in the characters. Austin exhausted his comic potential in the first film and Dr Evil does the same here. Mini-Me gives the film enough of a boost but Fat Bastard takes any goodwill you might have for the film and flushes it down the toilet.
Should I watch it?
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me does as much wrong as it gets right. It's funny enough if you concentrate on the newer material instead of the gags brought over from the first film and Mini-Me is a brilliant addition to the team. But the story is fairly weak and the film tries too hard to make you laugh all the time. Comedy should be effortless but here, you can see the sweat running off Myers as he runs around trying to constantly tickle your funny bone. However, anyone looking for a quick and easy fix of funny won't have too many complaints about the film.
Great For: fans of the first film, James Bond detractors, soundtrack collectors
Not So Great For: proud Scots, cynical viewers
What else should I watch?
To be honest, there's not much wrong with the first Austin Powers film. I found it funnier and less strained than this sequel, despite the lack of Mini-Me or the delectable Heather Graham. Both of these movies, however, are much better than the increasingly tragic Austin Powers in Goldmember which has less laughs in it than Schindler's List (4).
A good spoof film is hard to find but you won't be disappointed with Airplane! (5) which launched the comic career of Leslie Nielsen and remaining an absolute blast. It also paved the way for other, equally silly films like The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad! (6) and Top Secret! (7) which introduced Val Kilmer to audiences across the world. All these films feature a wonderful combination of razor-sharp dialogue, background sight gags and surreal sequences with po-faced performances to die for.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox