AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY (1997)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Nudity, Sex-Related Dialogue and Humor

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Directed by: Jay Roach

Written by: Mike Myers

Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Michael York & Will Ferrell

AUSTIN POWERS is a movie that is so much a product of its time period that I was kind of worried to revisit it. A few years had passed from the success of WAYNE’S WORLD and semi-successful gross of WAYNE’S WORLD 2. Mike Myers was a far bigger name back then (slightly lower than Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey). Tons of cultural references are sprinkled throughout the script written by Myers. Therefore it’s far more enjoyable for someone who lived through the 90’s. In this day and age, the film holds up surprisingly well and plays like a dirtier-minded version of something in the same vein of THE NAKED GUN or HOT SHOTS.

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In 1967, Austin Powers (Mike Myers) is a groovy secret agent who’s very much into the hip Free Love environment. He’s constantly clashing with the diabolical Dr. Evil (Mike Myers in different make-up). After Evil freezes himself to commit crimes in the future, Austin Powers is cryogenically frozen as well. 1997 is the year that Dr. Evil returns and Austin Powers is forced back into action. As both Evil and Powers adjust to the three decades worth of change around them, Powers tries to stop Evil’s evil plan to destroy the world and also falls in love with his sexy partner Vanessa (Hurley).

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AUSTIN POWERS is filled to the brim with dirty jokes, potty humor and sex puns. To those offended by any of those things, this is the kind of the territory you automatically find yourself in a Mike Myers comedy. The main target of Myers’s script is 007 flicks. References to plenty of Bond movies are made and deliberate details are shifted from specific baddies to damn near identical dialogue. A couple of examples are the hat-wielding assassin Odd Job being changed into a shoe-wielding assassin Random Task and Dr. Evil stating “No, Mr. Powers. I expect them to die.” Silly moments also deliberately poke fun at the plot holes seen in that cheesy series. The mixed element of AUSTIN POWERS is that the title character can be annoying (kind of the joke in certain areas) and that Dr. Evil outshines him in every possible aspect. Evil’s relationship with his test-tube-born son (played wonderfully by Seth Green) is comedy gold.

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The bigger flaws come in a rather anti-climatic ending, although there are two follow-up films. If I had seen this in the theaters or on video during 1997, I would have been unsatisfied with an obvious ploy for a second film. At the time, it wouldn’t have even been a possibility to have seen a sequel either, because AUSTIN POWERS only found a following on video after so-so theatrical reception. Also, the relationship between Myers and Hurley comes off as unbelievably forced. All this being said, POWERS is still pretty frickin’ funny. Also the film is risqué for a PG-13 flick. If the MPAA had rated this now, it would have suffered cuts or the wrath of a light R rating.

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AUSTIN POWERS isn’t perfect. The title character can be annoying and the relationship is unconvincing. The movie is great where it counts and that’s in the laughs. Everything involving Dr. Evil is hilarious and I sort of wish this movie had been solely about this incompetent villain. The movie is a product of its time in the sense that Austin Powers is a character from the swinging 60’s. Both are aged in slightly embarrassing ways, but they’re also funny regardless. AUSTIN POWERS is a solid 90’s comedy that has a lot of rewatch value. The near future will tell if the sequels hold up just as well for me though…

Grade: B+

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