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Mr. Mojo Rising

The second coming of Austin Powers isn't exactly the return of "Star Wars"--thank heavens. Yes, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," has been awaited by legions of panting devotees. Hollywood projections have Mike Myers's swinging spy sequel, which opens this Friday, finishing second only to Lucas's latest in the summer box-office sweepstakes. And, yes, store shelves this summer will be jammed with merchandise spinoffs from both movies--though here, we begin to sense a distinction. "Star Wars" fans will want one of those neat double-bladed lightsabers. Fans of the International Man of Mystery, on the other hand, will have to weigh the pros and cons of approaching the cash register clutching a genuine Austin Powers Swedish Penis Enlarger. But the most important difference is this: "The Spy Who Shagged Me" is mostly the goofy, jubilant fun it ought to be.

The sequel picks up where the original "Austin Powers" left off, go-going its way through another decade-straddling, Ian Fleming-on-Ecstasy plot. We start off in the present day, where oversexed agent Powers (Myers) is relaxing between the sheets until his chrome-domed nemesis Dr. Evil (Myers again) spoils the mood. This time Evil's gunning for Washington, D.C., with a giant laser cannon stationed on the moon. But in the meantime, he's got something else up the sleeve of his beloved Nehru jacket.

Dr. Evil and his new pride and joy, a pint-size clone he dubs Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), time-travel back to the '60s to put Powers out of commission retroactively. With the aid of an obese, baby-eating Scotsman named Fat Bastard (Myers, yet again), Dr. Evil steals Powers's "mojo," the vague but vital life force that puts the lead in our hero's pencil. Powers is right behind, natch, with the CIA's Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) in tow, seeking to recover his mojo, save the planet and, of course, shag the girl. If it all seems a bit dizzying, it is. When Powers himself begins ruminating on the logical loopholes that all this time travel presents, his boss cautions, "I suggest you don't worry about this sort of thing and just enjoy yourself." He then addresses the audience. "That goes for you all, too."

Take his advice--there's plenty to enjoy. Like the 1997 original, "The Spy Who Shagged Me" spits out snappy double entendres, killer sight gags and outright absurdity thicker than the thatch on our hero's oft-bared chest. "Do you smoke after sex?" asks comely Vanessa (a cameo by proto Powers girl Elizabeth Hurley). Powers: "I don't know, baby. I've never looked." One priceless gag from the original, in which various objects--vases, coconuts, etc.--strategically pop up to interfere with the audience's view of bared body parts, is repeated here during the film's opening credits. Later, the same concept gets a clever verbal spin, as rapid-fire context-shifting prevents characters from directly describing a distinctly phallic spaceship. Radar operator: "It looks like a giant..." Cut to fighter pilot: "Dick! Dick, look out to starboard!"

These days, of course, lowbrow comedy is king, and "The Spy Who Shagged Me" doesn't buck the trend. Toilets and their contents get a starring role in several scenes, and the unspeakably hideous Fat Bastard--who figures in a love scene with Heather Graham--provides fodder for some of the grossest gross-out humor this side of Monty Python's exploding Mr. Creosote. No matter. More likely to offend is the shameless parade of product promotions. Virgin Atlantic, Volkswagen, Starbucks, Heineken and AOL all intrude.

Myers juggles his roles admirably, though his Powers seems a lighter shade of paisley this time round. Since he spends most of the movie inhabiting his native '60s, the fish-out-of-water humor that worked well last time is missing. The Powers-centered plot lines also tend to bog down in a dull romance and in music-video-like interludes that bleed air out of the film's tires. As Dr. Evil, though, Myers is shinier than his own shaved pate. His awkwardly autocratic bad guy steals the show, particularly as we follow the continuing Freudian psychodrama between the doctor and his son, Scott (Seth Green). The old man, it seems, has taken to Mini-Me. When Scott makes overtures toward a reconciliation, he's rebuffed. "You had your chance," Dr. Evil says. "I already have someone created in my image. He's evil, he wants to take over the world and he fits easily into most overhead storage bins." Graham is suitably gorgeous, but doesn't display the easy way with an absurd line that Hurley mustered in the original. One caveat: this film was reviewed from a videocassette, so we can't say much about its visual impact. But we don't think the humor shrank in the translation. In the film's last line, Dr. Evil promises, "We'll be back." Count on it.

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