Friday, April 27, 2012

#620. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Directed By: Jay Roach

Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York

Tag line: "Frozen in the 60's... thawing spring '97, baby!"

Trivia:  The marching band in the opening sequence is the band from Riverside Community College in California

Austin Powers (Mike Myers), a British super spy with a hyperactive libido, became a sensation when he debuted in 1997's Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Yet despite the character's popularity, it was his nemesis, Dr. Evil (also played by Myers), who got all the best lines.

A fashion photographer in 1960s London, Austin is also the grooviest agent in her Majesty’s Secret Service. When arch-enemy Dr. Evil cryogenically freezes himself, Austin decides to do likewise, leaving instructions that he's to be defrosted whenever Dr. Evil returns. 

Thirty years pass before Dr. Evil once again takes the helm of his criminal organization. So Austin is thawed out as well, and with the help of Special Agent Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), he's back on the job in no time. 

A '90s woman, Vanessa finds Austin’s sixties mentality more than a little off-putting. In fact, due to all the changes that have taken place over the last thirty years, Austin has become a relic of the past. But as Austin struggles to find his place in the modern world, Dr. Evil is busy swiping a nuclear warhead, which he threatens to detonate unless the United Nations pays him "$100 billion dollars". 

Can Austin regain his “mojo” in time to save humanity?

Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery features a number of hilarious scenes, many of which are a direct result of its title character leaving the free-love '60s behind for the more reserved '90s. At one point, Austin watches a video (provided by Vanessa) showing him everything he’s missed over the last three decades, including the lunar landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall. What single newsworthy event had the biggest impact on him? “I can’t believe Liberace was gay”, he says to Vanessa, “I never saw that coming”. 

Yet as I alluded to above, the film’s funniest moments don't come courtesy of Austin Powers. They belong to Dr. Evil, the effeminate criminal mastermind out to conquer the world. Dr. Evil also has a hard time adjusting to modern society, especially the revelation that he has a teenage son named Scott (Seth Green). Conceived by way of a sperm sample left behind before his deep freeze, Scott and his father don’t really hit it off. At one point they attempt to strengthen their relationship by attending a support group for fathers and sons, during which Scott reveals that he dreams of one day opening a petting zoo. Dr. Evil, whose only wish is to have a son that will carry on the family "business", asks, “Will it be an evil petting zoo?” The question sends Scott off the deep end.

Austin Powers International Man of Mystery was a big hit upon its release in 1997, and was followed by two equally successful sequels. Yet as funny as these two movies (The Spy Who Shagged Me in 1999 and Goldmember in 2002) were, it was International Man of Mystery, with it's bawdy, over-the-top sexual innuendo, hilarious sight gags, and rapid-fire pacing, that set the tone for the entire series.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

I'd rather watch Matt Helm or Derek Flint. I didn't find the Powers movie amusing at all.

DVD Infatuation said...

Robert: I love the MATT HELM and FLINT movies also (they're a blast), but I do have a soft spot for Austin Powers. Yes, at times it's incredibly juvenile, but I have to admit it makes me laugh!

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