Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

(Jay Roach, USA, 1999)


Mike Myers’ Austin Powers films are like upmarket versions of the Leslie Nielsen Naked Gun vehicles or, further back, the Flying High comedies: a relentlessly silly string of low jokes and send-ups, hooked loosely onto a plot which is itself just another, implausible gag.

In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Myers and director Jay Roach approach this formula with even greater zest than in the original Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). What seemed like a missed opportunity for social satire the first time around – having the groovy, promiscuous, ’60s-era spy hero, Powers (Myers), transplanted into the politically correct ’90s – is here simply dispensed with.

After discovering that his bride from the first film (Elizabeth Hurley) is in fact a deadly ‘fembot’, Austin is zipped back to his own time to fight anew Dr Evil (also played by Myers), aided by a new cohort, Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham). Evil’s son, Scott (Seth Green), is so traumatised by his father’s return that he appears on The Jerry Springer Show for therapeutic catharsis.

By going backward in time, Evil has managed to steal Austin’s ‘mojo’ – the very essence of his virile power. This plot event triggers a ceaseless chain of gags playing on every kind of bodily anxiety peculiar to the male species. In this sense, the opposite number to the diminished Powers is Fat Bastard (Myers again, under a mountain of prosthetics) – an obscene, obese monster completely in love with himself and his own ‘sexiness’.

The Spy Who Shagged Me offers an amazing assortment of musical numbers, lengthy digressions, free associations and circus turns – Sergei Eisenstein would have called it a montage of attractions. Its levels of energy and inventiveness almost never lag – although Myers and his team are rather too fond of repeating their best gags ad nauseam.

The levels of pastiche in the film are dizzying. Unsatisfied to parody merely the James Bond films of the ’60s, it also pillages the weirder mutations of Bond from that time (like Modesty Blaise [1966] and The Tenth Victim [1965]). Forever milking its own unbelievability, the movie even manages to make a virtue of jokes that are corny, drop-dead obvious or frankly unfunny.

Every viewer will retain his or her favourite moment from this movie. Mine is the spectacle of Dr Evil and his tiny clone, Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), each with a custom-sized piano, warbling their way through a duet of “What If God Was One of Us?”

MORE Austin: Austin Powers in Goldmember

MORE Roach: Meet the Fockers, Mystery, Alaska

© Adrian Martin June 1999

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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