When it comes time to rank the world’s greatest peace-makers, Austin Powers will linger somewhere above Gandhi and below Mother Teresa. His inability to accept conflict into the lives of those around the world is an admirable quality we could merely wish to cling to. His honesty is groovy, his passion for music admirable, and the shagadelic qualities he possesses go beyond the rimmed glasses and funky pinstripe suits. Mike Myers retires the flamboyant flames of the original outing in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, but it is a necessary trade-off to produce the broad appeal the film has. Needing no real introduction, the series has taken on a life of its own through pop culture references and the fear of having an always-lingering 60s hippie who wields a revolver and jagged flirtations like a trained combat veteran.
That is indeed the major, and only draw, of Austin Powers. As a character and concept, he is an embodiment of the hippie craze and cultural discourse surrounding such memories of old. It is a decent representation to be had in the first one, which is a moderately funny but forgettable affair. Here, his character isn’t given any more than the usual depth, but at least has a degree of range to him. More jokes, even those that riff off of and steal from the first film. A competent supporting cast including Heather Graham and Verne Troyer are on hand to deliver some exceptional moments too. Joining them is Seth Green who, like many of the projects he is in, steals the show. A lot of plates are spinning at once, which is surprising considering this is a film that can be thrown on the rising pile of spy spoofs.
Crucially, of course, the film is funny. Had it not been funny it would be rather difficult to present anything of interest to talk about. Director Jay Roach gets a free pass when crafting a sequel to the open and shut events of International Man of Mystery. His fast and loose style adapts the series well, engaging with the tropes that made the first one stand-out as more than a relatively feeble comedy. Recurring gags are just fine, as are the new inclusions of Rob Lowe and the aforementioned Troyer. Expanding on this universe of characters is a clearly difficult job, but Myers and the cast seem to be having a good time, and that translates well to the big screen.
What the original was rather timid about, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me merely explodes and pushes far further than the original. A semblance of story is present in the first, which, for better or worse, provides narrative clarity. Here, Roach leans into the more opportune funk of the series, pasting half the script of the first film over to here, merely changing the location and adding in some notoriously strong supporting characters. It would be remiss not to mention Mr. Elvis Costello and Mr. Burt Bacharach, the clear highlights of the film. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is a hard film to dislike, and a harder film still to objectively criticise.