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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery [1997)

I imagine I’m the only film critic in the world simultaneously engrossed in the oeuvre of Godard and the semi-genre of spy spoofs.

Yet it’s true.

And this film sets a sort of modern standard.

When I first saw this picture it didn’t have the same effect on me which it does now.

The difference?

Total immersion in the James Bond series.

This brings me back to my first statement…stated differently:

How could a person delve into the deepest recesses of French intellectual film and yet appreciate a notoriously shallow succession of pseudo-cinematic pap?

The James Bond franchise succeeded in its early years on sheer will of confidence (expressed in the nonchalant swagger of Sean Connery).

And so for those of us who are drawn to films such as Dr. No like moths to a flame Austin Powers provides just the right measure of fun to mercifully deflate our nonsensical ambitions.

Truth be told, most average citizens (myself included) would make horrible secret agents.  We can’t keep secrets.

We can’t outrun a young assassin.

But we like to dream.

There are always analyst jobs.  Perhaps…

But let’s get on with it…

What makes this film special?

It is that outsider/outcast aspect which plagues Austin “Danger” Powers.

The most poignant (poignant?) touch is Austin in the casino bar flashing a peace sign (V) of naïvete to a tableful of unsympathetic twits.

It should be noted that Mike Myers actually does a formidable job of not only referencing the various minutiae of Bond films but also of evoking the humanism of Chaplin embodied in the closing speech of The Great Dictator.

Put simply, this is a very smart movie.  Don’t let the fart jokes fool you.

Sure…some aspects of this film have not aged so well, but it was made in a spirit of fun.

Did this opening installment in the franchise pander to the mediocre intelligence of American movie-going audiences?

Of course.

But hey…that spirit has powered (no pun intended) some of the great films of all time.

What Austin Powers brought to the world was really a reawakening of the American comedy zeitgeist from the 1980s.

Think of those great, enjoyable films like The Three Amigos (and especially Spies Like Us), Trading Places, the National Lampoon movies, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles…  I don’t care what anyone says:  those were great movies!

Those are the films I grew up on.  Airplane, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure…heck, even Romancing the Stone pulled me in every time it came on TV.

Director Jay Roach did a really nice job of providing that enjoyable experience with this film.  We all need some laughs.

Life is too hard; too sad.  Too serious!

But Austin Powers is most of all the gold standard of Bond spoofs.  When you can’t watch Goldfinger for the umpteenth time, give yourself a break with this film.

It will feel like a masterpiece.  We all need a funhouse mirror in which to see our own reflection and laugh.

There’s no shame in that 🙂

-PD

10 responses to “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery [1997)

  1. BeeHappee

    Nice review! Yeah, those are great films, I don’t care what anyone says either, as I go through life, somehow I do not find myself in the scenes from Tarkovsky and Goddard too often, but can often relate to Three Amigos and Austin Powers and Planes Trains and Automobiles. . 🙂

  2. Great quote: “Truth be told, most average citizens (myself included) would make horrible secret agents. We can’t keep secrets.”

    The more you watch the Sean Connery Bond films, the more you appreciate Austin Powers. I’m still hoping there will be a 4th one. btw; Mike Myers brought Dr. Evil back for a surprise SNL appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkKSxwwuaCY

  3. I laughed at “There are always analyst jobs. Perhaps…”

    Coming from Maryland, everyone I knew who claimed to be in the business was some kind of analyst (one possible exception).

    I’ll have to rewatch this one. It’s been a while, I probably missed much, and it might be good to have a distraction now and again.

    • Yes, I think my analyst skills would be the equivalent of Austin Powers/Johnny English operative skills.

      Speaking of spooks, that story from about a month back about the guy in California with the houseful of guns was fascinating. He claimed he was some kind of agent. Died of heat exhaustion or something. He told his two female friends that if he died they should leave him in a parked car outside his house and his agencies would retrieve him. The ladies were to leave town (for some reason…obfuscation presumably). When they got back his body was still there. That’s when the police got involved. I’ll have to dig up his name. Seems like it was in Sacramento or somewhere around there.

      Cheers! –Paul

      • I hadn’t heard about that at all. What a strange life he must’ve led. And still to be able to convince two others. It’s impressive, really.

      • The weirdest twist (added to the media coverage well after the fact) was that he supposedly thought he was part extraterrestrial. I looked up his name and I’ve already forgotten again.

      • Part extraterrestrial? Interplanetary relations is pretty progressive even by modern standards. If he was really spouting that in his lifetime, then he was lucky to meet two extremely gullible understudies.

      • Yeah…reminds me of this endearing film I saw recently called Paul about an alien. Looks good! Only caught part of it. Pretty funny. –Paul

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