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  Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery Cometh The Hour Cometh The ManBuy this film here.
Year: 1997
Director: Jay Roach
Stars: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Fabiana Udenio, Mindy Sterling, Paul Dillon, Charles Napier, Will Ferrell, Clint Howard, Ilya Baskin, Tom Arnold, Lois Chiles, Carrie Fisher, Christian Slater, Rob Lowe
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction, Adventure
Rating:  7 (from 3 votes)
Review: Back in 1967, just outside Las Vegas, a criminal mastermind is drawing up his latest plan, but first he has to take care of some business. His underlings have disappointed him for the last time, and he opts to punish them the only way he knows how: by striking fear into their hearts, and worse. Because they have not killed his chief rival, international superspy Austin Powers (Mike Myers), they must now die, and it is Dr Evil himself (Myers again) who executes them. He does leave two alive, however, and orders them not to fail, little realising that this battle will climax thirty years from now...

Mike Myers' most successful movie character did well enough when it was relased to cinemas, but it wasn't a massive success by any means - until, that is, it reached home video and its ideal rewatchable nature made it a cult favourite-turned-runaway hit, so much so that a sequel (or two) was ordered, and a thousand catchphrases were born. Well, it just seemed like a thousand catchphrases, it was actually about three which were extensively repeated by budding impressionists looking for an easy laugh. Fortunately, in the original the laughs were a lot more plentiful, with Myers' script proving he not only knew the material he was sending up, but could pinpoint what made it so daft.

Austin Powers was not so much a spoof of the obvious James Bond blockbusters of the sixties, although that was part of it with head villain Dr Evil patterned after Donald Pleasence's Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, but more a parody of those countless imitations which sought to cash in on the financial prosperity associated with Bond. There seemed to be one such copy released somewhere in the world every week after Dr. No came out back in 1962, and every example was existing in the shadow of the British agent, but Myers recognised that there was only one 007 and in their attempts to go one better than the classic format, those imitators often looked pretty silly.

Of course, many of those were supposed to be silly, as there was no shortage of spoofs back then either, but Myers saw that underneath all the mocking there was a definite feeling that those filmmakers and TV producers really meant it, and would have loved to have thought of the idea first. This means Austin is singularly unaware of his basic ridiculousness until he reaches the present day, that being 1997, as during the opening we witness Dr Evil fail yet again to bump off our hero and escape in an advertising statue of the kind that would be unlikely to be in London of 1967, but everything for a gag is the rule here. Thus the bad doctor is cryogenically frozen and awakens thirty years later to find that his business has been very lucrative.

So lucrative, in fact, that you wonder why they bothered staying loyal to him all that time he orbited the globe, and to an extent they didn't, realising that Dr Evil is as much a man out of his element as Austin is. He has been frozen too, and reanimated to do battle with his old nemesis, paired with the daughter of his previous sidekick Mrs Kensington (Mimi Rogers), a bookish young lady called Vanessa (Elizabeth Hurley) who is aghast at what Austin thinks is sexual liberation straight out of the Swinging Sixties, but actually makes him an irresponsible dinosaur. It's a nice theme from around the era that such fashions and music from thirty years before were considered "cool" again, and if inevitably we have moved on from the nineties, the film never feels irrelevant thanks to its barrage of outright ludicrous gags. From the verbal ("Allow myself to introduce... myself") to the visual (the nudity-hiding sequences), this was high on the density of humour, and still tickles the funny bone today. Music by George S. Clinton.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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