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In this episode: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me | On DVD

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is a disappointment. Fortunately, it is one of the funniest disappointments I've ever seen. It is one of those movies where you laugh and you just have no idea why. Unlike the original Austin Powers, however, I'm not going to want to see this one over and over and over.

There are many near-brilliant jokes and gags in this flick, and one completely brilliant one that I can think of right off the top of my head (though now off the top of my head includes the three days it's taken me to write this blasted review). The completely brilliant one is the Starbucks thing. Using Starbucks Coffee to achieve world domination is a brilliant concept, not because it's new, but because so many of us feel that's what they are trying to do already. Adding Dr. Evil to the mix makes it near-brilliant. The movie's execution of the idea pushes it into brilliance. You'll see what I mean with the Seattle Space Needle shot.

Count in the near-brilliant group the following items: Rob Lowe as a young No. 2, including a dead-on accurate Robert Wagner voice (that's not looping you hear, baby); the not one but two sequences of people commenting on the phallic-shaped rocket ship Dr. Evil uses for his travels to the moon; the movie's shrugging off of both Vanessa's true identity and the very southern Californian-looking English countryside; Austin's fight with Mini-Me; the attack pram. I'm missing a couple things, I'm sure, but those are the best. Not included in the above list but funny nonetheless are: The suggestive tent shadows (I kept thinking it should not have been funny, but God help me I was crying); Tim Robbins as the President in 1969; Felicity Shagwell's militaryesque band of go-go girls; The time-traveling Beetle (just for the paint job alone); Jar Jar Binks; Dr. Evil's rampage on The Jerry Springer Show...

Just kidding. Jar Jar still sucks.

I am going on about what I like in a vague manner so as not to give away too much. How boring. So let me tell you what kept me from ranking the film on the same level as the first AP.

The first and most obvious thing the first AP had going for it was freshness. This time, we all know the characters and their quirks. In AP2, almost everyone does what they did in the first, only more so. Dr. Evil does more finger quotes, tells Scott to shut up some more, and his voice is more exaggerated. Frau Farbissina shouts more. Scott complains more. Mustafa has a more gruesome-sounding near-death experience. The most disappointing thing is that Austin himself, though still a very funny character, has little new to do in this movie. Sure, he loses his mojo, but that only slows him down. And he only gets a couple new catch phrases. Mike Myers obviously felt he had more room to grow Dr. Evil's character. Sometimes, Dr. Evil is pushed a little too far and he becomes less sublime and more in-your-face. The exaggeration of his voice is one example of this. But like the rest of this movie, with the unfortunate also comes the funny. Dr. Evil gets to behave more oddly, which sometimes works well. His conversation with the President where he delivers his demands is great. His song and dance rap duet thing with Mini-Me is fun, too.

The movie just doesn't stick. While Austin Powers' humor was like a stick of Extra gum where the flavor lasts—as is now legendary in those striking and original television advertisements—an extra, extra, extra long time, The Spy who Shagged Me's humor is like Juicy Fruit: Very yummy, but goes away quickly. Take the memorable gags away, and AP2 becomes mere fluff without much clever wit.

Where the wit is missing comes the potty humor. There was some potty humor in AP1, of course, but it was bearable. The whole scene with Austin being attacked in the restroom by Patty O'Brien was funny because it was mistaken potty humor. "Who does No. 2 work for?" "That's right, buddy! You tell that turd who's boss!" Witty. But Austin mistakenly drinking a stool sample from the uncreatively-named Fat Bastard? Just gross, not witty. (Fat Bastard too is merely one big gross-out and not a very funny character.)

Yet I still laughed throughout the whole movie, which makes me ask how serious one can get about a movie like this. I mean, at least AP2 makes no major blunders to ruin the Austin Powers franchise (like Jar Jar did for Star Wars), and it is funny a majority of the time (unlike Jar Jar). So there.

I did miss Elizabeth Hurley as Vanessa. She shows up in the first scene but is quickly deleted so Austin can get on with his swinging ways. Though I appreciate how Vanessa was dispatched with dramatic James Bondian aplomb, I wish Vanessa had been around for the whole show. Heather Graham, as Felicity Shagwell, is a poor substitute. Felicity is a fine match for Austin in the Swinger's Club, but through all the sexiness she's boring. That is partly Heather's fault. Elizabeth, in AP, brought not only smashing good looks to the table, baby, but also a smirk-inducing sense of care-free fun. Heather just walks around, her hips knocking over the scenery.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery will be forever one of my favorite comedies. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me will just be one of those very funny summer movies. You should definitely see it, but see it with a light heart. Or maybe after a couple beers. Enjoy it for what it is, then go see Tarzan.



6/16/99 (Happy Birthday, Sis!)

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I watched Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me again last night, the first I've seen it since the theater. Well, I was right in my first assessment: it is not something I will want to watch over and over again like I do the first movie. In fact, I don't think I ever need to see it again. I just didn't laugh as much; things weren't as funny the second time. Well, so it goes.

On the technical side, our player had trouble with this DVD. Some compression anomalies showed up 40 minutes in, and repeated whenever I went back over that spot. It played fine on my Mac, though. And the player skipped the whole chapter when Austin and Felicity get back to 1999 and meet up with Fat Bastard (who, BTW, was even more unfunny this time 'round). I scanned backward through the chapter, then the player had no trouble playing it properly.

Oh, if you have the DVD, take a look at Clint Howard's filmography in the Cameos section. Look for Ice Cream Man. See that? See that there? That's Sven's movie! So Sven made it to the Austin Powers world, if even indirectly!


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©1999, 2000 Steven Lekowicz except
Austin Powers artwork ©1999 New Line Cinema