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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

January 13, 2011

8/10 Groovy Babies

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.

Bonus points for cameos from the Soup Nazi and Babu Bhatt.

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.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2011 3:04 am

    Easily one of my favorite comedies of all time.

    Warm liquid goo phase — complete.

    • January 13, 2011 12:28 pm

      Hahahaha. Man, I remember LOSING it in the theater when he kept on peeing during that de-thawing phase. Oh, to be 11 again…

  2. January 13, 2011 7:53 am

    Seeing as I’m going through all the Bond’s with a fie tooth comb for James Bond January it’s amazing how many great spoofs and parodies AP managed to get in to one film (and the three overall). Every single detail, cliche and recurring theme from the Bond films are ripped to bits.

    I remember seeing this one in the cinema as a kid and still have a massive soft-spot for the AP films (although was beating a dead horse by the end!)

    • January 13, 2011 12:29 pm

      Hahaha, have a total soft spot for it as well. Man, I gotta apologize, I’ve really dropped the ball on the JB January thing. I’ll make up for it in preparation for Bond 23, but I do have Dr. No sitting on my counter right now and I will watch that by the end of the weekend. Milking this JB month into a JB year.

  3. January 13, 2011 8:43 am

    its not bad. still think the second one is better

    • January 13, 2011 12:30 pm

      Second one definitely has its moments, but this is where it all started, man. Still feel like the next two were piggy-backing off of this.

  4. January 13, 2011 10:31 am

    This film was a riot. I don’t really care much for James Bond so I found all the jokes spot on and Mike Meyers was a riot. Easily one of my favorite spoof movies.

    • January 13, 2011 12:31 pm

      Same here, man. Wish Myers was still this good.

    • January 13, 2011 12:34 pm

      One of mine too, and good spoof movies are damn hard to come by these days.

  5. January 13, 2011 11:24 pm

    This is the only one in the series that’s truly inspired; the others were just crass and overdone.

    Plus, you can’t beat Alotta Fagina.

    • January 14, 2011 9:11 am

      Completely agree. And the first time he hears Fagina’s name is still too damn good.

  6. HermioneO permalink
    January 20, 2011 9:34 am

    Ya know, I thought it spoofed Flint (from In Like Flint) a lot more.

    • January 20, 2011 12:20 pm

      For someone who loves the saying, it’s darn sad that I still haven’t seen In Like Flint. I need to fix that and get back to ya’.

  7. January 25, 2011 3:04 pm

    Frankly, I’m surprised you didn’t rate this a 9 based on all you said. I wouldn’t fault you for it.

    It’s silly and absurd (and maintains that tone all through the movie, which is nice), but it’s also smart and smart-assed. Lot of good going for it there. Throw in some great casting (Wagner, Michael York) and Myers in his prime and you’ve got a fucking winner.

    I lamented that guy’s career a while back…remember So I Married An Axe Murderer? I know you do. What happened to the Myers that wasn’t afraid to be in a movie sans makeup?

    • January 25, 2011 3:10 pm

      Dude, So I Married an Axe Murderer is classic! “HEAD! MOVE! NOW!”

      If I had reveiwed this back in my Middle School days, I might have given it a 10, but the thing is that no matter how much time I give myself to forget about this movie, I’ve still got the punchlines burned into my brain. Doesn’t have the same always-funny effect as something like Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

      Still, this movie is legend.


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