Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery

on May 02, 1997 by Christine James
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Skewering Bond films and '60s sensibilities seemed like the perfect construct for the talented and oft-anglophilic comic actor/scripter Mike Myers ("Wayne's World"). The high-energy film opens three decades ago, with Myers decked out as the ostentatiously garbed Austin Powers, a swinging, womanizing hipster superspy who's adored by all, despite his repellently uncared-for teeth. Living out the sort of scene that exists only in musical films of the flower- power era, Powers and the youths of London spontaneously engage in a groovy dance number, with even stodgy police constables joining in with cartwheels and handstands. This deliciously over-the-top send-up promises a level of hilarity that the rest of the film falls disappointingly short of.
When Powers' Blofeld-esque nemesis Dr. Evil (also played by Myers) escapes capture by having himself cryogenically frozen and shot into space, our champion altruistically has himself frozen as well, to protect a future generation from the villain's tyranny. Thirty years later, Evil returns, plotting to steal a nuclear weapon and hold the world hostage for the sum of -- One Million Dollars, a demand that results in snickers from U.N. leaders. Quickly apprised by his advisers of inflation, Evil corrects that figure to One Hundred Billion Dollars, this time eliciting the desired shocked gasps. (To his credit, Evil had tried to think up something more creative than stealing a warhead, but his nefarious ideas, such as puncturing the ozone, had all actually taken place during the years he was in the deep freeze).
For all of Myers' exuberance, masterful cheek and funny delivery of groovaciously outdated vernacular, his writing just isn't up to the possibilities. Additionally, Elizabeth Hurley ("Dangerous Ground") is cringingly unappealing as Myers' sidekick, Vanessa Kensington. Striving for a blend of haughty yet charming, her primary acting conceit involves suppressing innumerable smiles to herself that indicate her unwilling attraction to our politically incorrect hepcat hero. And Mimi Rogers as Powers' former partner (now Vanessa's mother) might look great in a leather Emma Peel bodysuit, but she can't maintain the English accent even for the three or so lines she has. The movie also doesn't go far enough with its fish-out-of-water time- warp mayhem; the culture clash is represented only by wild apparel and licentious behavior.
Though there are many hilarious moments (especially those that parody the cheesier aspects of '60s spy flicks), just as many miss the mark, some falling flat completely. But audiences not expecting a comic masterwork will probably have a fab time, baby. Starring Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley. Directed by Jay Roach. Written by Mike Myers. Produced by Suzanne Todd, Demi Moore, Jennifer Todd and Mike Myers. A New Line release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for nudity, sex-related dialogue and humor. Running time: 89 min
Tags: Starring Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley, Directed by Jay Roach. Written by Mike Myers. Produced by Suzanne Todd, Demi Moore, Jennifer Todd, Mike Myers, New Line
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