Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
My middle school years in a nutshell.
Austin Powers is about a swingin’ British spy who freezes his body in ’67 and gets thawed out in ’97 when his archnemesis (who also froze himself) threatens to destroy the Earth with a hijacked nuclear warhead. So he teams up with the minxy daughter of his former right-hand woman, learns the hard way that the world has changed a lot over the course of 30 years, and sets out to save the world while managing to escape from one overly elaborate and easily escapable situation after another.
Jesus H. Murphy, folks. I was 11 or 12 when my dad first took me to see this in theaters, and while I probably didn’t get half the jokes or even remotely understand why the hell Pops kept laughing whenever that Swedish penis pump showed up, it was a big moment in my formative years. It wasn’t until way later when I started to get into James Bond and had a loose grasp on the crazy shit those hippies did back in the ’60s that I could fully appreciate it beyond blasting audio clips of “DO I MAKE YOU HORNY, BABY!” during computer class, but who am I kidding, that was gold. Totally worth detention.
So if someone asked you to come up with a parody of James Bond, Austin probably isn’t the first image that would come to mind, but when you consider the ’60s, when you consider all the gals Bond got in the sack, when you consider how ridiculously convenient all his gadgets were, the impression’s actually pretty dead-on. It’s those British teeth, the mane of chest hair, the shameless lack of an OFF switch whenever there’s a woman in the room, the fembot-destroying dance moves, that velvet suit comboed with a male symbol necklace – Austin is just a perfect send-up of a time and a character that were the epitome of cool back in their prime but ended being pretty ridiculous in retrospect.
But I gotta say, Dr. Evil might have him beat when it comes to sheer laugh count. The bizarro bastard child of SNL creator Lorne Michaels and recurring Bond villain, Blofeld, Dr. Evil completes the package that Austin lays up. His idiotic, flaw-riddled plots to take over the world for a $1 Million ransom by giving the impression that Prince Charles had an affair behind Diana’s back, his mission to destroy Austin Powers by slowly dropping him into a pool of genetically mutated sea bass amongst other strokes of genius, it’s exactly the kind of dumbass schemes all of Bond’s villains cooked up and it’s funny every time.
And I don’t care how many times I see him try to do the macarena, that shit will always crack me up.
Although the most bittersweet aspect of this whole thing is the genius behind it all, Mike Meyers. This was an instant hit for good reason, but little did we know that it would lead to The Cat in the Hat, The Guru, all 26 entries of the Shrek series and the cash cow of a franchise he milked out of this movie, and after revisiting this recently, it’s almost sad to see how funny Mike Myers used to be. It’s really hard to believe how the guy’s essentially become a parody of himself and how far he’s fallen from his days as Wayne Campbell and Phillip, but he’s a freakin’ rip here in his dual roles, he wrote an effing brilliant script, and I don’t know what happened.
Well, at least we’ll always have the original Austin and Dr. Evil to remind us of the good old days. Also nice to see an up-and-coming Will Ferrell also get a choice death-defying scene as Dr. Evil’s henchman, Mustafa; Rober Wagner was a nice choice for Dr. Evil’s number two, Number Two; Elizabeth Hurley does her thing as Austin’s main squeeze, Ms. Kensington; a relatively unknown Seth Green lucked out by nabbing the role of Dr. Evil’s son, Scott Evil, who actually knows how to kill a guy far more effectively than his old man; Tom Arnold gets a great bit role that justifies his existence as a “celebrity”; and that whole Alotta Fagina bit was classic.
With the exception of Fat Bastard, I feel like The Spy Who Shagged Me and Goldmember ultimately did a bang-up job of helping people forget what a fucking hilarious movie this is. But unfortunately, after more or less memorizing the movie front-to-back in my early teens, I could still see every last punchline coming from a mile away even after giving myself the breadth of a decade or so to forget everything by the next time I watched it. I didn’t end up laughing a whole lot and I probably would have given this a 6 or a 7 if I was judging it by last week’s viewing, but if you’re not in the same boat as me, if you’ve never seen this before or if you haven’t seen it since it was in theaters, it’s a total 8. Nevertheless, I will always laugh when Austin walks into the bathroom and asks the blind attendant: “You didn’t happen to see…anything at all?”
So good and just a damn funny movie that’s a lot smarter than I think folks give it credit for.