Wednesday 13 May 2015

Movie Review: Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1997)

A satire of everything James Bond, Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery takes aim at plenty of targets from the slick secret agent genre, and hits most of them with ridiculous ease.

Ooo, behave!

It's  1967, and Austin Powers (Mike Myers) is a secret agent enjoying the hedonistic London life of sex, more sex, and a bit more sex. Powers may have bad teeth and a horrible mat of chest hair, but he is irresistible to most women, although his assistant Mrs. Kensington (Mimi Rogers) does manage to stall his advances. Madman Dr. Evil (Myers again) heads a terrorist organization intent on world domination. But when Evil fails to assassinate Powers, he cryogenically freezes himself in a Big Boy rocket ship and orbits earth for 30 years, hoping to get back into action in a future without Powers. The Department of  Defence responds by freezing Powers, to be thawed upon Evil's return.

Groovy, baby!

Sure enough Evil reactivates in 1997, sets up his base near Las Vegas and with the help of Number 2 (Robert Wagner) hatches a plot to blackmail the United Nations with nuclear weapons. Powers is brought back to life, and Mrs. Kensington's luscious daughter Vanessa (Elizabeth Hurley) is assigned as his assistant. Soon they catch up with Number 2 and his girlfriend Alotta Fagina (Fabiana Udenio). Powers has to adapt to a new decade, catch-up with a much changed world, make up for a lot of lost time chasing women, and stop Evil from destroying the world.

Yeah, baby, yeah!

A broad comedy with a brand of humour both infantile and successful, Austin Powers almost has it too easy. The James Bond series itself often descends into self-satirizing, and contains no shortage of juicy targets: the megalomaniac villain with his cat and idiotic accomplices, the destroy-the-world plot, the curvaceous and outrageously named women seduced for secrets, rampant sexism, double entendres, the plastic colours of the 1960s and the grand yet cardboardy sets. The funniest thing about Austin Powers is that most of its individual pieces could have actually come straight from a Bond film.

It's freedom, baby, yeah!

Directed by Jay Roach and written by Myers (who also co-produced) but featuring plenty of ad-libbing, Austin Powers clocks in at barely over 90 minutes, which includes a few irrelevant musical interludes. Myers throws the jokes onto the screen at a manic pace, and achieves a solid success rate. This is an undoubtedly funny viewing experience, and Myers frequently chucks away any pretense of a plot and just unleashes a barrage of laughs for the sake of eliciting hysterical guffaws, including an endless peeing scene (the aftereffect of cryogenic unfreezing), group maniacal laughter by Evil and his associates, and the prolonged non-death of one Evil's underlings. There is also a completely superfluous and not as successful sub-plot about Evil's difficult relationship with his son (Seth Green).

I never forget a

Most of the hilarity is derived from Powers' out-of-control sex drive, his attempts to bed Vanessa, and his obsession with recreating the fun times of the swinging sixties. With its adolescent fixation on sexcapades and titillation, the film almost forgets about the central spy satire premise and confines itself to long stretches of locker room humour, with Myers inventing a whole new phraseology to spice up Powers' libido-driven personality.

Shall we shag now, or shall we shag later?

Over-the-top, over-sexed and just generally over-clocked, Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery lives life in the funny lane, no matter which decade he populates.

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