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Latest 'Austin Powers' film doesn't peter out on jokes

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"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"

Directed by: Jay Roach

Starring: Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Seth Green

Rated: PG-13

The plot of "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" is so nonexistent that at one point, the actors turn to the camera and urge the audience to just "go with it."

Scatological humor, sexual innuendoes and two hilarious strings of gags featuring Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and guys with names such as Peter and Johnson, as well as Mike Myers' swinging and smarmy title character combine to make this film a sure comedy hit for the adolescent male audience that has already seen "The Phantom Menace" a dozen times.

My personal teen consultant has assured me that "The Spy Who Shagged Me" is way cooler than the first film, so I must defer to her.

For my tastes (and taste is not a word easily associated with this series) I think the original made its point and the creators should have let that be the last word.

But when there's money to be made with a proven formula, Hollywood always seems to pick up the ball and run.

For the uninitiated, here's the scoop on Austin Powers: He's a libido-laden, dentally challenged, modish secret agent/swinger from the late 1960s who was subjected to cryogenic freezing back in 1967.

He was thawed 30 years later to combat his arch nemesis, Dr. Evil. Both characters are played by Mike "Wayne's World" Myers who, like Peter Sellers, seems to enjoy (and does a fine job of) playing multiple characters against himself.

Where the "Pink Panther" films were satirical spoofs of an entire film genre, "Austin Powers" tends to take aim rather specifically at the James Bond films of the '60s and '70s. There are also jabs at "Star Wars," the TV show "The Monkees," "A Hard Day's Night" and "Shaft."

My favorite gag in the first film was the one carried out by Seth Green, as Dr. Evil's son, Scott. He (like audiences everywhere) wondered why super villains found it necessary to devise such elaborate schemes to kill their rivals. These devilish plans only give the hero time to escape, and when we hear Scott say, "Gimme the gun and I'll pop a cap in him right now," we all know that his is the voice of reason. Evilly speaking, of course.

In the new film, Scott turns up on "The Jerry Springer Show," in an episode titled "My Father's Evil and Wants To Take Over the World." Not surprisingly, Dr. Evil and Springer get into a knock-down, drag-out fist fight.

What struck me as odd was that this parody was actually rather tame compared to the real thing. (Not that I ever watch "The Jerry Springer Show" or anything.)

Dr. Evil uses a time machine to go back to '67, when Austin Powers has just been frozen, and hires a rather obese Scotsman of questionable descent (I can't really say Fat Bastard, the character's name, in these pages can I?) to steal Austin's "mojo," the essence of his sexuality. Austin travels back in time as well to recapture his libido and to thwart Dr. Evil's plan for world domination.

Being back in the swingin' '60s is a perfect excuse for the filmmakers to trot out some grooooovy costumes, set designs and special effects.

Probably the best thing that trots out is Heather Graham (she was Roller Girl in "Boogie Nights") who is the very reason hot pants were invented. She looks equally at home in a macram? dress, a feat that is harder to accomplish than one might imagine.

Graham doesn't have the detached, above-it-all demeaner of Elizabeth Hurley (from the first film), but is great as the decidedly beautiful spy, Felicity Shagwell, who is totally trapped under Austin's spell, even without his mojo.

Evil's sidekicks are in full bloom here, too. Robert Wagner as the 1999 version of "Number 2" gives way to Rob Lowe's 1967 portrayal which amounts to Lowe doing a great take-off on Wagner.

Mindy Sterling's Frau Farbissina is a direct cop of Rosa Klebb, the tough spy with a knife in her shoe in "From Russia, With Love." And this time around, Dr. Evil has a little clone of himself in the form of Verne J. Troyer as the biting, none-too-well adjusted character called Mini Me.

There's nothing new here, but there really doesn't need to be. Fans of the first film will be back en masse and those who found the gross-out humor in last summer's surprise hit "There's Something About Mary" to their liking will ensure that "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" plays strong through Labor Day, before finding a very healthy life as a video-store staple.

Bad taste and low-brow humor just never go out of style.

Groovy baby, I suppose.

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)[[In-content Ad]]

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