Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
1997, PG-13, 87 min. Directed by Jay Roach. Starring Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner.
REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., May 9, 1997
The swingin' Sixties -- those were the glory days for international intrigue, eh? When 007 could spook SPECTRE, UNCLE would thrash THRUSH, and superspies dressed for the job. With Bond in his sleek black tux or John Steed with that dapper bowler or Ilya Kuryakin in his oh-so-moody turtlenecks, our spies were sure to save the world from whatever megalomaniac was out to enslave it this week. They had to; they had better clothes! I mean, the whole spy game was all about style, wasn't it? Sure, and Mike Myers knows that. That's why the hero of his comic tribute to Sixties superspies is decked out in crushed velvet and lace, why his speech is spiced with “groovy” and “baby,” why his jet is equipped with a round, rotating bed. Grrrrowr! This secret agent man has style to burn, baby! Which is a lot of what makes this send-up such a fab gas. It nails with fond hilarity every garish, trippy detail of that era's mutant mix of high adventure and high fashion: plastic dresses and velvet suits in neon oranges and blues, bosomy temptresses, Space Age gadgetry, and preposterously convoluted death traps. The look is spot on, down to the painfully phony rock walls in the villain's mountain lair and cinematographer Peter Deming's overlit Sixties style that washes out the color but keeps it lurid. The sound swings with Burt Bacharach, Brasil '66, and George S. Clinton's brass-blaring homage to John Barry's 007 scores. But this is Myers' baby, baby, and his script and twin turn as both Powers and his nemesis, Dr. Evil, supply most of the laughs, zeroing in on spy-film style like Gert Frobe's laser on Sean Connery's crotch. His Powers is a cheeky hipster, all go-go lingo and love machine moves, despite an upper plate like the Yellowed Cliffs of Dover and a thatch of chest hair off a nutria. And his Dr. Evil is the ultimate in out-of-it oppression. Bald, scarred, and trapped in one of those truly bad, shapeless gray jackets with no lapels and a high collar, this guy can't get a good look to save his life. And he shows he knows it in a pathetically pouty lower lip. Perhaps only people reared on this stuff will love Austin Powers, but there's more here than the perfect recreation of Sixties absurdities and genre spoofery; there's comedy that would be hilarious in any context. Austin Powers is the kind of movie Mel Brooks used to make -- extravagantly funny, with plenty of juvenile humor, but as much or more of it smart, delivered with a dead aim at a cultural milestone, affection for its victim, and style. Lots of style. That's what makes it shagedelic, baby.