Sequels tend to appear in two distinct varieties. The rarest, yet most satisfying, are those which attempt to continue the action of the original, taking the characters and themes from the first and developing them in new and interesting ways. However, the vast majority of sequels are merely remakes, telling the same story as the original, with a few cosmetic differences, but everything else completely intact. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is definitely one of the latter. The film shamelessly apes the original, and is never able to surpass it.
For those unfamiliar with Austin Powers (played by Mike Myers), he debuted in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery two years ago. A product of the 1960s, Austin Powers is a British superspy from the era of James Bond and free love. Cryogenically frozen in the 60s, and thawed in the 90s, Austin is a man hopelessly out of touch with the times, and yet completely oblivious to the fact.
The Spy Who Shagged Me also marks the return of Austin Power’s nemesis, that Ernst Stavro Blofeld doppelganger, Dr. Evil (also played by Myers). This time around, with a nod to 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dr. Evil is given a sidekick, Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), a clone one eighth his size, but eight times as evil.
With a typically convoluted plan, Dr. Evil schemes to travel back in time to 1969, when Austin Powers was still frozen. There, he will steal Austin’s “mojo”, and proceed with his plans of world domination. However, the mojo-less Austin Powers from the 1990s travels back in time to stop him. This time, Austin teams up with a 1960s CIA agent, Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) to stop Dr. Evil’s nefarious plans.
This time around, Austin isn’t nearly as interesting as his counterpart, Dr. Evil. In the first film, Austin was a fish out of water, a self-deluded misfit who didn’t realize he was totally uncool in the 1990s. Now, however, in the 1960s, Austin is back where he belongs. He no longer sticks out, and we must turn to Dr. Evil for consolation. Dr. Evil would stick out in any timeframe, and is certainly the more humorous character in this sequel.
The original Austin Powers had many hilarious moments, but stretched them out way too long. The Spy Who Shagged Me takes those exact same moments, and stretches them out even further. The first time Dr. Evil reprises his “zip it” comment, it elicits a chuckle of recognition. By the time he delivers the umpteenth variation, you simply wish he would follow his own advice. A little self-reference is occasionally a good thing. The Spy Who Shagged Me simply overdoes it.
That’s not to say the film is completely devoid of original humor, just that the moments are few and far between. Most of the new bits take the original film’s “naughty” sense of humor to the next step, with a Farrelly-inspired obsession with gross-out humor. However, the film does manage to score some points with its winking acknowledgment of continuity flaws, both with the first film, and the time travel plot as well. But the film’s best bit comes with a montage of verbal gags regarding Dr. Evil’s oddly shaped rocket.
The cast seems to have a good time with the film. Mike Myers gives his all in three separate roles. Though many of the gags sputter and fail, it’s not for a lack of Myers’ trying. Heather Graham is a little shallow as the female equivalent of Austin Powers, but maybe that’s the point. The true acting coup here, though, is Rob Lowe as a young Number 2. He delivers a dead-on impersonation of Robert Wagner…it’s truly eerie.
In the end, though, The Spy Who Shagged Me doesn’t deliver any more than the original, either in terms of humor or sheer entertainment. In fact, it’s so similar that you would do just as well rewatching the first Austin Powers on video.