Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Here's what I liked about "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me:"
1. Dr. Evil. Neuroses threatening to burst from every pore, forced to confront his rebellious son on Jerry Springer ("My Father is Evil, and He Wants to Take Over the World"), saddled with the adoring yet disastrously homely Frau Farbissina as his coworker in evil, but helped enormously by his 1/8-size clone Mini-Me, Dr. Evil is a classically flawed villain, imperfect yet powerful, a man self-aware enough to know that he must overcome his own, sometimes disastrous impulses, if he is to achieve his goals.
2. The opening scene in which Austin Powers discovers that his TV remote control can play back his wife (Elizabeth Hurley) and that the SAP button can make her speak Spanish.
3. The shadow play in the tent scene, in which onlookers watch in horror as Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) keeps pulling a wondrous variety of objects out of what appears to be Austin's rectum.
Here's what I desperately hope never to have to see again:
1. Austin Powers. If there's any valid generality about comedy, it's that self-consciousness is the enemy of wit. Mike Myers has made a career out of smirking at the camera, letting us know that it isn't really him doing those stupid things on screen, but a 'character' he created. Thanks, Mike, but we got it already. Though oddly enough, what we also get is the sense that there's some wishful thinking at work as well, that Myers really wouldn't mind being Austin Powers. And the problem with Austin Powers as a comic creation is that he's not funny. Scenes with Austin Powers in them can be funny, but not because he makes them funny. They stand or fall on either the context (the tent scene) or because the other characters do or say something funny. It's interesting that Dr. Evil, who is a truly comic character, has no need to step outside himself to get laughs.
We live in comedy-impaired times, when much that in a wittier era would be thrown out in the script conference (vide "There's Something About Mary," which is early Woody Allen without the jokes) ends up passing for great humor. Myers has much in common with Jim Carrey, who also seems to think that showing one's teeth is in itself a comic statement. (For some reason, Myers changed Austin's tooth prostheses a number of times during the film, and I found myself thinking like a dentist: Did the others hurt? Were they not funny enough? More buck? Less gap? Finally, I just gave up, feeling that if Myers can't even keep his trademark character consistent, it's not up to me to help him.) Let's hope for better times.