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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
1997 - PG-13 - 90 Mins.
Director: Jay Roach
Producer: Suzanne Todd, Demi Moore, Jennifer Todd, Mike Myers
Written By: Mike Myers
Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Michael York, Seth Green, Will Ferrell, Tom Arnold, Carrie Fisher, Rob Lowe, Christian Slater
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Spy spoofs usually amount to zip. That’s why the raunchy “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” was so popular upon its release. It accomplished its mission of successfully spoofing the James Bond phenomenon in almost every way. The two sequels didn’t do quite as well, but I was quite pleased with the second film, especially.

“Saturday Night Live” veteran Mike Myers plays Austin Powers, a groovy British spy in the swingin’ sixties. 1967, to be exact. His looks resemble the orangutan-meets-human look that British are stereotyped with, and his clothes are fresh outta’ 60’s London.

Mike Myers also plays Dr. Evil, Powers’ arch-nemesis. After tracing Dr. Evil to the Psychedelic Pussycat club in London, Evil gets away in a Big Boy rocket and blasts into outer space, where he circles the world for thirty years, frozen with his cat.

Myers 1 – err, Austin Powers – is cryogenically frozen immediately, to be thawed out upon return of Dr. Evil.

Well, the thirty years pass, and eventually Dr. Evil returns to earth, with Mr. Bigglesworth, his cat. Number 2 (Robert Wagner), his evil assistant, fills him in on what has happened over the years, and soon Evil is planning another “Highjack some nuclear warheads and hold the world ransom” bit.

Austin is thawed out and sent to find and defeat Evil, along with the monkey-eared Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley).

“Austin Powers” has its hit and misses, but comes off with mostly hits. It is probably the best spy spoof to emerge out of Hollywood for years. One of the most interesting aspects is that it does not spoof James Bond film as openly as one might expect– there are tiny, minute details that you only pick up on after multiple viewing. I really expected every other gag to be a satire on Bond films, but alas! They were not! Yes, the film is a spoof on Bond, but not to a sick extreme. Just minute things that audiences may – or may not – pick up on, depending on how knowledgeable they are on the Bond movies.

Powers is, of course, a spoof on James Bond. He’s sex-obsessed like Bond, but does not come across with the same coolness and ease of James Bond. At least not in the nineties, anyway.

Dr. Evil is a spoof on Blofield, Bond’s arch-nemesis from the Bond films. He is shrouded in mystery and when revealed boasts a bald head, a big, crooked nose, and a cat like Blofield’s which is unfortunately naked – without fur – because it didn’t thaw out so well in the Big Boy rocket.

Number 2 is a spoof on…well…Number 2 from “Thunderball” – from the name to the eye patch, which I only picked up on after viewing “Thunderball” recently.

There are some very clever scenes in “Austin Powers.” Some of the gags spoof the spy genre very easily. Others fall flat, mainly because they try to get the audience to be sickened. Yes, the film needs to be raunchy to a certain degree – it is a Bond spoof – but they went a bit OTT on some of the jokes (the whole Jacuzzi scene got a bit prolonged…).

Perhaps the greatest thing about this film is that it is not directly geared towards Bond geeks. We’ve seen satires that were targeted at a small audience range – like “Galaxy Quest.” I really disliked the film the first time I saw it because I do not watch “Star Trek” – but on second viewing I found it to be a clever satire on the Trekkies and equally so on the television show. I guess if I saw the film I would have enjoyed it more the first – and probably second – time. It was a good comedy, but if they had not geared it towards such a small range of audience, I feel they would have received more of a response to the film.

But the exact opposite is the case with “Powers.” Bond geeks and regular moviegoers alike can enjoy this film. It brings two very different audiences together – they may laugh at different things, but they are still laughing together.

Perhaps that is the film’s biggest achievement. Sadly, it is its most overlooked, as well. I think that many people don’t really understand WHY they like the film so much. I’ve heard people say, “Why do you like the film so much?” and the other person will say, “Well…umm…gee, I just do.” They themselves know the jokes are not always the greatest. Many of the gags DO fall short.

But deep down they know that the cleverness of the film is what makes them like it so much – and they are either subconsciously afraid to admit that, or literally don’t know how to.

Be warned, “Powers” is not a film for everyone. If you don’t like raunchy laughs, I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you want to see a clever parody of the spy genre – well, I might as well say it: a clever parody of the James Bond genre (let’s face it – there’s no such thing as a spy genre anymore – James Bond has its own genre) – then I would recommend “Powers.” “Austin Powers.”
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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