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Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Bigger isn't necessarily better for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," the follow-up to the 1997 sleeper. Expanded in every aspect save inspiration, co-writer/star Mike Myers' vehicle tickles the funny bone ably enough for 95 minutes, yet feels like a quickie where it ultimately counts most -- in the writing.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better for “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” the follow-up to the 1997 sleeper. Expanded in every aspect save inspiration, co-writer/star Mike Myers’ vehicle tickles the funny bone ably enough for 95 minutes, yet feels like a quickie where it ultimately counts most — in the writing. Repeat biz is thus likely to disappoint. Still, massive marketing oomph and a summertime field largely clear of comedies cutting across so many demographic groups should make this a strong B.O. performer in nearly all arenas. As with the first installment, which reaped $56 million theatrically, pic can look forward to a huge video audience.

Pic starts with a cosmic scroll — the first of many timely “Star Wars” nods — recalling first episode’s events, then picks up exactly where “International Man of Mystery” left off: with psychedelic superagent Austin (Myers) and lovely cohort Vanessa (Elizabeth Hurley) in their honeymoon suite. The spouse, however, is “exposed” and disposed of in rather rote, hasty fashion, leaving our playboy protag to swing freely once again.

Brit intelligence boss Basil Exposition (Michael York) calls in news that, natch, the world is again imperiled by arch-nemesis Dr. Evil (Myers), whose outer-space exile hasn’t lasted long. Rejoining subordinates Frau Farbissina (Mindy Sterling), Number Two (Robert Wagner) and whiny teenage son Scott (Seth Green), the doc now plans to plant a giant laser gun on the moon, picking off urban centers until his ransom demand is met.

Yea worse, he’s rigged a flunky’s time-machine travel to 1969, hypodermically stealing the “mojo” (viscous guck equated with Samson’s hair) from our then-cryogenically frozen superhero. Soon Austin himself is tripping back to the Paisley Age, where curvaceous fellow agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) is his new ally in preventing Evil domination. They eventually journey to the chrome-plated fiend’s secret island headquarters. Expected gunplay, explosions and against-the-ticking-clock silliness ensue.

Among the better new wrinkles are crybaby Scott’s reunion with nefarious Dad on “The Jerry Springer Show” (topic: “My Father Is Evil And Wants to Take Over the World”) and a steamy chess game with bodacious enemy spy Ivana Humpalot (Kristen Johnston). Sterling’s role as the Lotte Lenya-style frau is given welcome extra screen time; it’s also a hoot seeing Rob Lowe’s spot-on Wagner impression as a younger Number Two.

But sequel’s major added characters — Dr. E’s mute, diminutive clone Mini-Me (Verne J. Troyer) and repulsive Scottish hit man Fat Bastard (Myers), who provokes far too much scatological humor — are just middling conceits. More surprisingly, the near-infinite possibilities presented by revisiting Swinging London are tapped no further than a brief “Laugh-In” take-off and another seg in which Austin and Felicity shop for groovy Carnaby Street threads.

Biggest letdown, however, is that Myers and Michael McCullers’ script just doesn’t have it in terms of fresh narrative developments or individual gags. Too many of the latter are simply insistent reprises from part one; dialogue often sounds the result of so-so improv that should have been improved upon. Movie in-jokes, jokey product placements and a misguided dependence on soon-to-be-dated pop culture references (Dr. Evil now uses ’90s hip-hop slang) fill out the rest of a colorful, fast-paced but thin diversion.

With no truly outstanding comic set pieces, returning helmer Jay Roach’s feature percolates along amusingly enough, but leaves a throwaway aftertaste. (A packed young preview aud laughed consistently, then barely applauded at the end.)

Myers’ two main onscreen personae — not including Fat B., who one hopes won’t be returning — delight once again, their tics and incidental reactions often registering as funnier than any actual jokes. Graham is a sexy, game partner who, like Hurley before her, doesn’t really bring much comic flair of her own to the party.

Various fleeting guests turn up as well: Will Ferrell, Tim Robbins, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, et al, plus Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello in a musical bit. They’re all clearly having great fun. Too bad the material doesn’t push them to the original’s level of spotty but oft-inspired lunacy.

A considerable budgetary jump allows pic’s designers to run wild — Austin’s 1969 London pad limns the last word in mod excess — though special effects remain willfully tacky, true to overall concept’s 1960s spy-fantasy genre roots. Widescreen lensing is Day-Glo bright, pace frantic (complete with more of prior episode’s go-go “psychedelic scene breaks”), other tech contribs high-grade.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

  • Production: A New Line Cinema release of an Eric's Boy/Moving Pictures/Team Todd production. Produced by Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Demi Moore, Eric McLeod, John Lyons, Mike Myers. Executive producers, Erwin Stoff, Michael DeLuca, Donna Langley. Directed by Jay Roach. Screenplay, Mike Myers, Michael McCullers.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Ueli Steiger; editors, John Poll, Debra Neil-Fisher; music, George S. Clinton; music supervisor, John Houlihan; executive music producer, Danny Bramson; production designer, Rusty Smith; art director, Alexander Hammond; set designers, John Jeffries, Stephen Cooper, Andrew Reeder; set decorator, Sara Andrews-Ingrassia; costume designer, Deena Appel; sound (SDDS/Dolby Digital/DTS), Kenneth McLaughlin; choreography, Marguerite Derricks; associate producer, Emma Chasin; assistant directors, Gary Scott Marcus, Hal Olofsson; second unit camera, Sandi Sissel; casting, Juel Bestrop, Jeanne McCarthy. Reviewed at AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco, June 8, 1999. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 95 MIN.
  • With: Austin Powers/Dr. Evil/Fat Bastard - Mike Myers Felicity Shagwell - Heather Graham Basil Exposition - Michael York Number Two - Robert Wagner Young Number Two - Rob Lowe Scott Evil - Seth Green Frau Farbissina - Mindy Sterling Mini-Me - Verne J. Troyer Vanessa - Elizabeth Hurley Ivana Humpalot - Kristen Johnston Robin Swallows - Gia Carides With: Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Charles Napier, Willie Nelson, Tim Robbins, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Jerry Springer, Fred Willard.
  • Music By: