Elizabeth Hurley and Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
The spy spoof, as a genre, has been around almost as long as the spy genre itself. Shortly after Sean Connery introduced us to the world of guns, gadgets, and girls in the spy classic Dr. No, Hollywood began satirizing the role. James Coburn's In Like Flint and Dean Martin's Matt Helm are the most famous of these. Even Bond himself was skewered in the pitiful Casino Royale, a movie which sank so low as to have Woody Allen playing Jimmy Bond. These were however, without exception, complete duds.
It would be more than 30 years after Bond's cinematic introduction that someone finally created a spoof worthy of those films. A spoof that pokes fun and pays homage, both at the same time. A spoof that has the perspective of time. A spoof created by someone who grew up watching those movies. And a spoof created by someone who obviously views those movies with a great deal of affection. I am speaking of course, of Mike Myers' Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
The plot isn't just one worthy of a Bond film, it's almost lifted straight from a Bond film. An evil villain holds the world ransom with the threat of nuclear destruction. Sounds like the plot of nearly half the Bond films, doesn't it? A point made quite effectively in one of the opening scenes when Dr. Evil, after offering several alternate world domination plans, suddenly declares, 'Hell, let's just do what we always do. Hi-jack some nuclear weapons and hold the world ransom.'
Other points from the Bond films are skewered equally well. When Dr. Evil is asked why he doesn't just shoot Austin Powers, he replies, 'No, I've got a better idea. I'm going to put him in an overly complicated, easily escapable situation and just assume everything will go to plan.'
Mike Myers playing dual roles, has created two classic and opposing characters, that of Austin Powers, and Dr. Evil. Austin is the essence of the swinging sixties; hedonistic, lecherous, and ultra mod. Dr. Evil is of course after only one thing, complete and utter world domination. Myers plays them both to perfection.
The rest of the cast is good, I'm particularly fond of both Robert Wagner's character as the under appreciated Number Two, and Seth Green's character as Scott Evil, the Doctor's estranged son. Elizabeth Hurley is appropriately attractive, but Myers' has saved all the best and funniest lines for himself. And who can blame him?
Another key to the success of this movie, is its attempt to have heart. The scene after Austin admits to shagging Allotta Fagina, and tries to cope with the fact that he's not living in the sixties anymore, manages to be both touching and funny at the same time. This is not an attempt to win an Academy Award by any means, but it does add just a tiny bit of depth to the character that you wouldn't normally expect from such a film.
Here's a test. Watch Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and when it's done, try not to imitate him. You won't be able to help yourself. Mike Myers has created such an infectious, and joyful character with so many distinctive verbal and physical mannerisms, you will be forced to say, 'Groovy Baby!', at least once.
Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Austin Powers is almost a good movie. Almost. Yes I laughed at several scenes but not that many. The character of Austin Powers is very charming and likable. None the less, the jokes are all very juvenile. So juvenile in fact that my 6 and 4 year old love this movie.
Mike Myers is absolutely incredible at creating the catch phrase. Witness the many Saturday Night Live lines he has created "No way! Way", "Talk amongst yourselves". In fact the only good things about this movie are the catchphrases. "Oh behave", "Groovy baby, Yeah".
Where he really needs some help is in the joke delivery area. The scene where he gets his penis pump out of storage almost has humor. The problem is that the joke that he is embarrassed by owning a penis pump is dragged out to a boring length (No pun intended). Had the guard simply announced it out loud and put it on the counter, cut to Elizabeth Hurley's look of disgust then Austin's red face of embarrassment then get on with the scene. Instead the scene has Austin justifying over, and over how it's not his. Another scene has Dr. Evil push a button and send a henchman to his fiery death. The joke is that he is still alive. It's funny the first time he yells back that he is still alive but hurt, not the second or third time.
Mike Myers has a wonderful imagination in creating and doing characters. However, Austin Powers should only be a 5 minute sketch. His mojo is not great enough to sustain over an hour's worth of entertainment.
Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
My opinion of this movie lies smack in between that of my two brothers. While it is clever and wonderfully performed I cannot imagine anyone considering it to be one of the ten best movies ever made, as Scott does. On the other hand, Eric has greatly exaggerated its flaws. The two specific scenes he mentions as being dragged on too long are in fact, quite funny. And since when is it an insult for a spoof to be considered juvenile?
What I enjoy the most about this film is the sixties flashback aspect, especially the opening scene and the energetic musical interludes. One movie, in particular, that it emulates, which Scott failed to mention, is The Last of the Secret Agents.
Mike Myers is, as we all seem to agree, very talented as both an actor and writer. This movie has some catchy lines and funny gags and his portrayals of the two opposing main characters are nearly perfect. Still, there are not enough nonstop laughs and unless you are a huge fan of either the genre, Myers himself, or all things British, this movie falls short of greatness.
Photos © Copyright New Line Cinema (1997)