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AUSTIN POWERS:  THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Rob Lowe, Seth Green
Director:  Jay Roach
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio:  New Line Cinema
Features:  See Review
Length:  95 Minutes
Release Date:  November 16, 1999

Film ***

Mike Myers, by going back to sixties, created one of the ultimate comic icons of the nineties with his swinging, brash British secret agent, Austin Powers.  He was a clever mixture of James Bond, Flint, and many other characters of that style and sensibility—and even if you didn’t pick up on all that, there was still plenty of laughs to be had.  By creating a scenario whereby this sixties relic of a spy was brought into our present time, Myers was able to strike a box office gusher.  And like the spy movies he so cleverly spoofed, a sequel was inevitable.

Well, the good news is that Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged Me is a most worthy sequel.  It is a near non-stop laugh riot, performed and filmed with a terrifically light hearted and naughty spirit.  It works because it captures and builds on what was popular about the first movie, while finding new territory to explore.

The plot is very simple…Austin (Myers), after having thwarted his nemesis, Dr. Evil (Myers again), finds himself following the mad villain back to the sixties.  The reason?  Dr. Evil has stolen Austin’s mojo (I can’t quite explain, but it works…trust me).  Now, a somewhat “powerless” Austin is all that’s left to stop Dr. Evil’s latest plan of world domination.

But let’s be real…the movie is not about the plot, it’s about the jokes, and there are plenty to spare here.  I especially liked the self-depreciating ones (“Isn’t it funny how England looks nothing like Southern California?”), or the way the anomalies that plague every time travel film are dealt with.  Austin is told by Basil (York) not to worry about them.  Then he looks right at us with a smile, and suggests we not worry about them, either.

By bringing Austin back to his swinging sixties, the sequel avoids the pitfall of repeating the premise of the first movie, the humor of which was largely derived from the fish-out-of-water notion.  Austin is not such a cultural oddity in the past.  As such, the movie is allowed to concentrate on the more interesting character, Dr. Evil.  Which is no flaw…after all, the villains were always more interesting than James Bond.  And Myers is keen enough to know what a comic gem he has in Dr. Evil, and milks him for everything he’s worth.  My personal favorite was a scene with the younger Number Two (Lowe), which was straight out of The Great Santini. 

There are also other priceless bits, including an outrageous shadow puppet display, a running gag about the shape of Dr. Evil’s rocket that keeps getting better and better, a third outrageous performance by Myers as the crass, Scottish assassin Fat Bastard, and a hysterical spoof of The Jerry Springer Show.  Throw in the fetching Heather Graham as Austin’s compatriot-in-arms Felicity Shagwell, and you’ve got quite an entertaining mix.

The comedy in this film is not for everyone, to be sure.  Much of it is crude, sophomoric, and possibly offensive (though after seeing South Park, this film looks more like an Andy Hardy movie to me).  But I can’t help but think that most who would appreciate a good laugh will heartily enjoy this film. 

Video ****

New Line delivers again.  With a bigger budget the second time around, this movie boasts even richer art direction than before, and the never ending array of gorgeous colors translate beautifully on this disc.  Images are bright, sharp, and clear throughout, with no evidence of grain or compression.  Colors are always extraordinarily defined and contained.  You almost need sunglasses for the experience. 

Audio ****

The 5.1 soundtrack is lively and dynamic, particularly during the climatic action scenes, and with a nice catalogue of pop songs and George Clinton’s terrific musical score to accompany.  All channels are come into play during several sequences, and the balance of the crossover effects are smooth and well rendered, including the low rumblings from the .1 channel.  Another outstanding triumph for New Line.

Features ****

From the very beginning, Mike Myers and Jay Roach were vocal about how good the DVD was going to be, with the promise that every scene cut to meet its PG 13 rating would be included.  They’re here…22 in all, to be exact.  That’s just the beginning.  There’s a full length commentary with Myers and Roach, a behind the scenes documentary, three music videos, four trailers, DVD ROM extras, cast and crew info, and even a hidden “Dr. Evil” page, with more features, including the Comedy Central biography program.  What’s more, Myers appears in the menu screens to point you out to your different choices.  He obviously filmed these just for the DVD, and is just another example of much how he, Roach, and New Line were committed to this quality release.

Summary:

If you like to laugh, and don’t find a bit of juvenile humor to your displeasure, then Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged me is just what you’re looking for.  It’s as funny as the original, with so many jokes and gags that you’ll need more than one viewing to catch all of them.  And as a Platinum Series DVD from New Line, they don’t come much better looking or more loaded with fun extras than this.  It’s a bargain at any price.  Except maybe “one hundred billion dollars…”