Making a comedy sequel has always been a dodgy venture. No joke gets funnier the more times you hear it (except that one about the nun and the hand cream), and even the most potent comic formula can lose its flavour when applied to more than one movie. Airplane was great; Airplane 2 was okayish. Naked Gun was mostly chucklesome; Naked Guns 21/2 and 331/3 were mostly lame. Even Wayne's World 2 failed to tickle as many ribs as the original. But, with The Spy Who Shagged Me, Britophilic Yank comedian Mike Myers has spawned a strange beast: a comedy sequel that's funnier than the original.
Logically speaking, this really shouldn't be the case. Austin 2 does little that's new. Powers himself has hardly changed, still blurting casually lewd catchphrases at every available opportunity. ("Do I make you horny, baby? DO I? Do I make you RANDY!") Every scene is still linked with an almost irritating dance number fronted by the snaggle-toothed superspy. And, plotwise, there are no surprises: Dr Evil wants to take over the world, Austin wants to stop him - that's it. But logic has bugger all to do with humour. With roughly three hits to every miss, the gags fly thick and fast, and when you're not clutching your guffaw-blasted belly, you'll smile so much that your face will ache for hours.
Fans of International Man Of Mystery will know what to expect: a lot of slapstick, some scatology, a fair slab of grossness and many, many knob jokes. The opening credit sequence, for example, repeats a favourite visual gag, having Austin romp about in the buff with various phallic objects obscuring his nether parts. Dr Evil, meanwhile, erects a rocket that looks remarkably like... Well, no prizes for working that one out. Those who like to think before they laugh may sneer. But as Python Terry Jones once said: "There's nothing wrong with being silly."
Dr Evil, rather than Powers himself, is still the source of the loudest laughs, as he's a far more complex comic creation than his foe. In the first movie, the best moments involved his inability to comprehend changes since the '60s ("I will hold the world to ransom for... one million dollars!"), his strained relationship with teenage son Scott, and his penchant for easily escapable situations involving overly exotic and elaborate deaths.
This time he's still having problems with Scott and avoiding the easy kill, but - unlike Austin - he has progressed. Having grasped a Dad Trying To Be Cool style understanding of '90s culture, Evil attempts to use it to impress his '60s counterparts. In one scene he starts blurting crap gangsta rap-isms to try and intimidate the 1969 American President (Tim Robbins, no less), but only confuses his supposed victims.
The bad guy support, however, is a tad patchy. Dr Evil's vicious, diminutive clone, Mini-Me, is immensely funny, but hyper-bloated Fat Bastard (Myers, muffled under a half-tonne mound of prosthetics, repeating his So I Married An Axe Murderer cod Scot) is out of place among all the spy-spoof kitschery.
But who cares? Fat Bastard takes up only 10 minutes of screen time, with the rest shared between Austin, Dr Evil and Heather Graham's Felicity Shagwell, a '60s agent who loves to "get on the good foot and do the bad thing" as much as her goofy partner. Graham looks foxier than ever and feeds Myers his punchlines perfectly. By casting an accomplished actress, Myers has avoided the Elizabeth Hurley problem which deterred some people from going to see the first film.
Anyone who loved the original will already be prepared for a laugh-a-minute joke-shower. Anyone who suspects The Spy That Shagged Me might be a lazy cash-in should relax, because this is a genuinely worthwhile continuation of the free-wheeling, puerile gaggery that made its predecessor such a success. And everyone else should go see it anyway, because it's incredibly funny.
Myers is on tip-top form, hurling out knob gags, poo jokes and crap innuendos at every available opportunity. The Spy Who Shagged Me has already knocked The Phantom Menace off the top spot in the US. So prepare for a huge and hilarious summer hit.