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.
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?
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 🙂