'Austin Powers' sequel isn't so smashing, baby

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" wasn't shown at this year's Cannes filmfest, but its producers made sure it was among the most noisily hyped movies on the festival's sidelines.

That's not because the original "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997) was a walloping hit. Just the opposite: It did disappointing business overseas, and even its American grosses were lower than expected (it earned less than $10 million its first weekend). It gained new energy on video, though, reawakening hope that Austin's goofy adventures might become a comedy series. Hence the decision to pitch the sequel with as much oomph as Hollywood can muster.

Mike Myers returns as the title character, a '60s-style secret agent who struts and womanizes like a James Bond run amok. Again his nemesis is Dr. Evil, whose goals include that old standby, world domination. Also on hand are an Evil clone named Mini-Me and an Austin ally named Felicity, played by Heather Graham with her usual charm.

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Myers plays everyone else important, including Dr. Evil and another "heavy" who barges through the movie like a literal bull in a china shop. He also sets the tone for the constant sexual and scatological humor. Some may find this Rabelaisian and refreshing, while others may detect the end of civilization as we know it. In any case, the screenplay - reportedly improvised to some extent - is coarse and crude enough to throw the PG-13 rating's credibility into permanent disarray.

It's wildly inconsistent, too, careening from hilarious wordplay to fatuous gross-out jokes in the blink of an eye. Look up "scattershot" in next year's dictionary, and you'll find a photo of Austin Powers grinning back at you.

*Rated PG-13; contains much sexual and scatological humor.

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