"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"

Fat Bastard to Rob Lowe in 20 minutes of cut scenes: "You're prettier than most girls I've shagged."

Published February 12, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"
Directed by Jay Roach
Starring Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Vern Troyer, Rob Lowe, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Robert Wagner
New Line; widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio)
Extras: Theatrical trailers and teasers; deleted scenes, commentary with Mike Myers, Jay Roach and co-writer Michael McCullers; making-of documentary; music videos by Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, Mel G.; DVD-ROM features

Jean-Luc Godard famously described "Masculine-Feminine" as being about "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola." The "Austin Powers" comedies are movies by and for the children of Burt Bacharach and Mad magazine -- they're "The Look of Love," set to the perfect fart joke.

The movies are Mike Myers' and director Jay Roach's fan letters to '60s pop. Taking off from the parodies of James Bond movies (the two movies starring James Coburn as Flint and the quartet of Matt Helm pictures with Dean Martin), "Austin Powers" is, in essence, a spoof of a spoof. But the movies are spoofs that never pretend superiority to their targets. More than any other genre, spy movies allow audiences the material pleasures of pop: the gadgets, the clothes, the swanky settings, the easy, uncomplicated sex. The Bond series devolved from a sophisticated adult comic strip into standard big-boom action movies and stopped fulfilling that function long ago. These sweet-tempered, unsophisticated, sometimes lowbrow comedies have stepped into the breach. Apart from laughs, Austin's crushed-velvet suits, frilly lace cravats and Cuban-heeled ankle boots provoke the kind of acquisitive sighs that Bond's Savile Row ensembles used to. And the question of who will be the next Powers girl (Drew Barrymore? Michelle Williams?) is discussed in the same way people used to wonder what cutie would next show up in Bond's arms.

Like "International Man of Mystery," "The Spy Who Shagged Me" has a faltering rhythm and jokes that sometimes go thud. But there's no malice, and that spirit carries the movie right over the rough patches. Some of the humor is truly bizarre: Vern Troyer's Mini-Me recalls Slim Keith's description of Truman Capote -- no matter how many times you see him, you have to get used to his looks. At its best, the gags are inspired bits of raunch (like the title the studio refused to let Myers and Roach use: "Austinpussy"). The shadow play sequence in which Heather Graham appears to be pulling everything but the kitchen sink out of Myers' butt is a low-comic classic.

As American agent Felicity Shagwell, Graham, looking great in minis and her "just rolled out of bed, can't wait to roll back in" hair, enters right into the spirit of things with an eager sexiness that recalls the young Jane Fonda. She's like a Girl Scout earning merit badges for looking yummy. And the gorgeous, candy-colored designs Rusty Smith has come up with for Austin's London shag pad look like froufrou Piet Mondrian.

The "Austin Powers" DVDs are designed like some great spy gadget (there's even a hidden Dr. Evil feature). Make a selection and Austin pops up with one of his patented phrases. The deleted scenes are presented as a top-notch gag reel: a 20-minute montage of one good laugh after another (including the priceless moment when Fat Bastard tells Rob Lowe, "You're prettier than most girls I've shagged"). And all of the commentary by Myers, Roach and co-screenwriter Michael McCullers is actually listenable. As they point out their inspirations and thefts, they reiterate the spirit of fandom that hovers over the picture. It's like watching an old movie with a bunch of friends and constantly delighting one another with what you remember.

By Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor is a columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger.

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