Originally Reviewed – 4/24/2012
If the first flick sparked an interest, the second created an obsession.
Firmly entrenched in late nineties excess, Austin Powers was a young dork’s dream come true. Austin wasn’t just a joke slinging super spy. He was a man about town, a charismatic yet vulnerable swinger who beat the bad guys, made us laugh and always got the girl. And I ate it up. From a copy of the soundtrack, to various memorabilia to a very decent impersonation of the lead characters, I was enamored with the rotten toothed super sleuth. Riddled with pop culture references and absurdist humor, the follow up to the cult classic not only cemented Mike Myers as an A list comedy star, it gave birth to a franchise. In the fifteen years since its release, the shine’s been worn off this film, more so than the first movie. Despite this, the base of the film provides an entertaining romp through sixties era spy clichés with a late nineties touch and still dishes out more than a couple chuckles today.
This second stanza finds Austin on another adventure against a familiar adversary. This time around, a Scottish monstrosity by the name of Fat Bastard has stolen the mojo of a cryogenically frozen Austin in the year 1969. The orders came from the nefarious Dr. Evil in an attempt to cripple his nemesis’ virility, hopefully rendering him powerless to thwart his plans. The plan itself? Something about a moon laser, a million dollars and a time machine. The driving narrative is weaker than the original film, but nobody’s going to this party for the story. They’re here to watch Austin swing and Dr. Evil laugh maniacally.
Mike Myers is again spot on in his portrayal of Austin, Dr. Evil and the new villain, Fat Bastard. With a new film comes further character development, Austin through the weakness of losing his mojo and Evil through a relationship with the screeching Frau Farbissina (Mindy Sterling). This creates characters with more depth and allows for the jokes to work even more. As a result, bits like Austin’s impotence and Evil seducing Frau hold up the best after a decade and a half. On the female front, American spy Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) takes Elizabeth Hurley’s place as Austin’s shag partner. While her character isn’t as interesting as Mrs. Kensington, Graham’s fem fatale is easy to like and even easier to look at, creating a satisfying target for Austin’s urges. And then, there’s Mini Me (Verne Troyer), the single best off shoot character in the entire franchise. Mini Me helps bring out Dr. Evils softer side and the moments where him and the good doctor interact are among the best in the movie.
What the film creates in good characters, it loses in narrative and by association, comedic drive. This go round seems much more like a compilation of sketches than a cohesive movie, especially in the bloated “sing along” sections. While momentarily funny, these parodies of “Just The Two Of Us” and the Joan Osborne one hit wonder “One Of Us”, serve only to slow down the story. If you just had to Wikipedia who the heck Joan Osborne is, congrats. You discovered the biggest reason why this movie doesn’t hold up. Moments like Dr. Evil telling the president to “talk to the hand” or using a scene from Independence Day to frighten Congress falls flat to modern viewings. In the first movie, these references could be seen as time and place, but since they are major components of the comedy in the sequel, they’ve become stale. The rest of the comedy works as individual pieces but without a competent story holding them together, the whole picture doesn’t flow.
That doesn’t make Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me any less of a good time. Despite the comedy feeling like a series of bits from a late night variety show, Austin Powers Part Two breaks even thanks to some fine and funny characters. Austin gets a chink in his machismo, Dr. Evil finds love in all the wrong places and even Fat Bastard has a moment of clarity. Couple that with some solid comedy directing by Jay Roach and you get a movie that maintains the base level of quality from the original offering. Just don’t expect to laugh out loud when the evil doctor says to the president, ” You’re not all that and a bag of po-ta-to chips.” Nobody under the age of thirty will get that reference in the first place.
Score – 70%