Pleasant and Often Hilarious

 

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) Review 5
Director:Jay Roach,
Starring:Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner
Length:94 minutes
Rated:PG-13

 

Austin Powers is an agent of British Intelligence in the 1960’s. His nemesis is the criminal genius, Dr. Evil. Having found his vile schemes once again thwarted by Powers, Evil freezes himself until a day when he can be thawed and try for world domination once more. Of course, Powers volunteers to be frozen also, so that he can be around to combat the villainous Doctor at whatever point in the future he reappears.

This is not so much a story as a jumping off point for the film’s greater purpose; to poke fun at 60’s pop culture. The principal charm, though, is Mike Myers’ portrayal of Austin Powers. He is disarmingly anachronistic. His ignorance of it and his complete abandon make him, and the decade that produced him, seem naive and feckless. He is sexually promiscuous, he dresses outlandishly, he speaks in a kind of pop cultural dialect. He really is a stranger in a strange land and he responds the only way he knows how. It is lucky for Austin that much of the culture of the 60’s has followed him into the future in the person and schemes of Dr. Evil, another inspired Myers creation.

As spoofs go, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is pretty much what you would expect. With nods to James BondLaugh InA Hard Days NightThe Avengersetc., the broad dialogue and sometimes brilliant sight gags are the vehicle by which Myers compares the morals of 60’s popular art (film, music, television) with the popular morals of the 1990’s.

There is a solid supporting cast of pros including Michael York, Mimi Rogers, and Robert Wagner. Some cameo spots are filled by Tom Arnold and Carrie Fisher but the real strength and most pleasant surprise is Elizabeth Hurley. She plays the part of Austin’s present day side-kick, Vanessa Kensington. With a dead-straight performance, she foils him perfectly. Vanessa reminds us, and Powers, of how the world has changed and then leaves space for the hilarious consequences of his reactions.

Some of the gags are in poor taste, but overall Austin Powers is a pleasant and often hilarious character piece.