Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. New Line Cinema et al, 1997.

Before watching the movie:

Somehow, when this movie came out, I didn’t hear about it. I was 11, a decent age to hear about movies like this coming out, but the first time I heard about it was when its first sequel came out. I didn’t know that Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was a sequel until I talked to my parents about it and they said they “saw the first one, didn’t like a lot of the content, and figured that the next would be even more” of what they didn’t like.

While I don’t expect to be as appalled as they were, I do expect an unfortunate pile of sophomoric humor on top of a pretty good Bond spoof.

During/After watching the movie:

Austin Powers–sex symbol, British agent, amateur photographer–is awkwardly transplanted from the 60s to the 90s  by cryogenic freezing when his nemesis Dr. Evil thaws himself out of hiding. He’s assigned Vanessa Kensington as a partner, who happens to be the daughter of his former partner Mrs. Kensington, the one that got away. After brainstorming a few evil schemes that already happened, like forcing Prince Charles to get a divorce, Dr. Evil plans to hold the world ransom for a million hundred billion dollars, by detonating a nuclear warhead inside the Earth’s core. Austin has to foil this plan while adjusting to the 90s and seducing falling in love with his very modern partner.

It’s easy to spoof the 60s aesthetic, it’s harder to create an affectionate parody of the 60s spy movie style. This movie manages both. Though Austin and his world are an over-the-top caricature of 60s culture, the creators blend the reality of the 90s and the lair of a thawed 60s supervillain handily. Even the “United Nations Secret Meeting Room” is designed with 60s flair.

There are two things about the style of humor that I don’t like. There is even more “crude humor” than I expected, and the writing frequently relies on overly long gags. The two are often paired, with the kind of cringeworthy results one normally only sees on Family Guy, only with the license a PG-13 rating allows.

The story is a solid parody of the 60s spy genre, the look is 60s quasi-futuristic, and the characters are relatable (though Austin himself takes a while to come to respect). I just wish they’d replaced some of the longer sequences of childish jokes with some of the deleted scenes that were included with the copy I have.

Watch this movie: As a loving tweak at the 60s. Groovy!

Don’t watch this movie: if you remember the 60s (if so, they say you weren’t really there, anyway).

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