Friday, January 2, 2009


Anybody that enjoyed the first Austin Powers epic should love the sequel. The gags in "Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (***1/2 out of ****) surpass the original not only in comic creativity but also in how much they make you cringe. The cosmic struggle between good and evil as embodied in Austin Powers' battle against Dr. Evil has never been funnier. Cheeky scatological humor permeates this derivative tale along with the usual bad puns, double-entendres, infantile innuendo, and farcical slapstick. Director Jay Roach and writer & star Mike Myers have boned-up their flaky-flashy formula, introduced new characters, embellished on-going subplots, and pulled out all stops to top the original. Naturally, the Austin Powers movies celebrate as much as poke fun at those hip 1960's spy sagas where James Bond, Matt Helm, and Derek Flint used their wits and ways with women to vanquish the villains.

Co-scripted by Mike Myers and Michael McCullers, "AP2" picks up where the original left off. Opening with a campy nod to "Star Wars," they recap the original adventure with their own prologue scrolling into deep space. Not only has Austin Powers (Mike Myers) defeated his arch enemy Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) and exiled him to the dark recesses of space, but Powers also gotten his ugly teeth fixed and has married Vanessa Keningston (Elizabeth Hurley in a cameo).

While Austin and Vanessa shag away in the honeymoon suite, Dr. Evil's Big Boy rocket reappears on Norad Radar. An American astronaut working on the space shuttle looks up and finds the famous Shoney's Restaurant icon hovering ominously in an atmospheric "Armageddon' like rendezvous that sets the tone of hilarity in this facetious sequel. Whirling 180 degrees around the smiling Big Boy rocket, the camera focuses on the Big Boy's butt as a hinged compartment lowers, launching an egg which tumbles to the Earth. Indeed, the diabolical Dr. Evil is back! Meanwhile, Austin learns that Vanessa isn't really Vanessa. Instead, she is a fembot, a Terminator-like robot equipped with machine guns in her breasts which she deploys to gun down Austin. Predictably, he survives her barrage of bullets and rescue her Swedish, penis-enlarging machine while the deadly fembot obliterates everything in sight before she self-destructs.

Later, Austin learns from Basil Exposition (Michael York), chief of British Intelligence, that they knew all along that Vanessa was a fembot. Rejoicing at his new found freedom, Austin cavorts throughout the motel in his birthday suit while psychedelic screen credits carefully obscure his genitals. When the credits don't cover up his crotch, different objects resembling his genitals show up in a series of inventive sight gags cover them up. Basically, director Jay Roach has recycled the same joke from the first "AP" movie but has tripled the objects standing in for Austin's genitalia.

While the first "AP" movie gave its eponymous hero the lion's share of screen time, Dr. Evil dominates the sequel. Actually, between the two, Dr. Evil is far more interesting. Resembling Ernst Blofeld from "You Only Live Twice," Dr. Evil is the epitome of irony. Just as he did in "AP," Dr. Evil allows his vendetta to kill Powers overshadow his plans to enlarge his astronomically wealthy empire. The product placement here is clearly over-the-top as we find Dr. Evil in his high-rise headquarters in the Seattle space needle. Number Two (Robert Wagner in a cameo) reports that since they have acquired a minor coffee franchise, Starbucks, they have reaped a fortune. Acquiring a fortune takes a back seat to Dr. Evil's latest mad scheme. He intends to go back in time to 1969, two years before Austin Powers has been frozen cryogenically, to pinch our hero's mojo. Dr. Evil dispatches his most odious hoodlum, Fat Bastard (Myers in a third role), a baby-chomping, kilt-clad Scottish bagpipe blowing thug who weighs a ton.

Meanwhile, back in the future, Austin learns to his chagrin that he has lost his mojo. Essentially, the swinging secret agent no longer has his virility, leaving him impotent. Basil Exposition confirms it, and British Intelligence plans to send him back to the past in a time machine to 1969. Appropriately enough, a new Volkswagen Beetle with psychedelic colors serves as the time machine. Austin returns to swinging London and hooks up with fox CIA agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham of "Boogie Nights"). They set out to recover his mojo and thwart Dr. Evil's fiendish plan to destroy Washington with a moon-based laser.

The Austin Powers movies synthesize the spy flicks of the 1960s along with the premise from the Sylvester Stallone thriller "Demolition Man." References to other movies creep into the action. When Dr. Evil's chair spins out of control, he invokes the chant from "The Exorcist." Incidentally, we learn in "AP2" that Austin's favorite movie is "In Like Flint." Nothing more than a loosely aligned jumble of "Saturday Night Live" skits like the original, "AP2" happily acknowledges its own absurdity in a couple of self-depreciating asides. Boldly, the filmmakers tell audiences in one scene to ignore the loopholes in the plot and enjoy the show. During a ride along a scenic stretch of road, Austin observes, "Amazing how England looks in no way like southern California." Director Jay Roach, who helmed the first "AP" movie, returns for the sequel. Clocking in at a trim 95 minutes, "AP2" rarely slows down, so if you watch it with a rowdy audience, you may miss some of the punch lines. The dancing interludes are flavorful and flashy, and the film's energy never wanes. Roach keeps the story rolling and the jokes flying as thick as bullets. One of the funniest scenes has Dr. Evil flying a spaceship shaped like erect male genitalia. Quick cuts from different people reacting to the object fuel the comedy.

"AP2" boasts beefed up production values that approximate the films that it sends up. Some of the funniest scenes involve Dr. Evil's relationship with his son Scott Evil (Seth Green). You'll die laughing at "AP2."

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