The 50% Club: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

I’ll admit, this is going to be a tough one for me. This film has been in my life since I was six (for better or worse), I’ve seen this film more times than I can count, and my brother and I can recite the majority of the script. I also think that aggregate review scores I’ve seen do nothing to represent the assortment of reactions I’ve come across whilst watching any film from the Austin Powers trilogy with other people; just the other day, watching the third instalment Goldmember induced hysterical laughter in one friend, but disgust in the other.

However, we’re here to talk about the second instalment, The Spy Who Shagged Me, which I think disappointed critics by moving further away from the satirical take on James Bond and 60s culture of the first film, and closer to less of a focus on plot and an increase in gross-out jokes and slapstick. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing, with most people watching the films for characters like Dr. Evil and Fat Bastard rather than any kind of narrative intrigue. It does mean, though, that the focus on humour rather than coherence or plot (at several points the film itself notes the absurdity of its time travel premise) splits people more, as obviously comedy is extremely subjective.

To quote some of the top review extracts that Rotten Tomatoes displays, the film apparently both ‘served up at least 25 guffaws’ and yet ‘recycles its own gags’. Although these reviews are both clearly by different people, it’s interesting that one being ‘fresh’ and another ‘rotten’ with almost opposite opinions can make the jokes appear average according to the score. Many other aspects of the criticism come from the fact that the movie uses ‘sex and bathroom humour’, and whilst this would signal to some people who don’t find this type of comedy funny to stay away, I don’t personally think this alone can be used as a criticism of the film. Animal HouseThe Hangover, and Superbad all use this humour throughout and are each considered ‘certified fresh’ on the website, so it must be something else driving the plethora of negative reviews.

In my opinion, the weaker and less memorable aspects of the film are the moments where it attempts to recreate the satire of the original, but falls a little short. The Star Wars references feel a little weak and uninspired, and I think that a more direct Moonraker parody could have served the film better, or potentially no new parody at all. Overall, though, I think that the 51% rating of this film on Rotten Tomatoes is largely because of the conflicting opinions on ‘immature’ humour, and as someone who can enjoy those sorts of jokes, I would rate the film around a seven or eight out of ten. And even if you don’t enjoy the film, you can’t deny the impact: both Mini Me and Fat Bastard arose from this film, though how positive that pop culture influence is is for you to decide.

(Side note: Maleficent will be up next week, I couldn’t get ahold of the film for this week unfortunately).

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