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Film Review: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
In 1997, Jay Roach released Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. which starred Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, and Michael York with multiple cameos including Carrie Fisher, Tom Arnold, Will Ferrell, Mimi Rogers and Christian Slater. The film grossed $67.68 million at the Box Office.
In 1967, British Spy Austin Powers is trying to capture his nemesis, Dr. Evil. However, the latter escapes by launching himself in a rocket and cryogenically freezing himself. He vows to return when free love no longer reigns and greed and corruption rule again. In response, Powers does the same in order to stop Evil when he returns, which he does in the late 1990s.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is a pretty good movie in the way it pokes fun at the spy genre. In fact, a lot of the humor comes in its parodying and referencing the James Bond movies. For instances, in You Only Live Twice, Bond is told that in Japan, “men come first and women come second,” establishing the cultural hierarchy. Powers is told the same for the same reason, but he takes the statement further in making it what is actually a well-timed and funny sexual joke by adding to the statement. The character of Frau Farbissina is based on Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love, with the Irish Assassin being part Red Grant and Lucky from the cereal commercials. However, the assassin isn’t taken out in as dignified a manner as Grant is. There’s also Random Task, a complete reworking of Oddjob from Goldfinger with the former settling for bludgeoning the target with a shoe rather than slicing with a razor-bladed hat. It’s honestly hilarious and leads to one of the funniest lines in the movie. The way he's dispatched is also a humorous nod to how Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are dispatched in Diamonds are Forever, only with him getting knocked out by a champagne bottle and sent for a ride on a cart instead of being set on fire and blown up.
The film also doesn’t take itself seriously at all, which is helped by the fact that, according to Myers, 30-40 percent of the film is completely improvised. One of the assassin’s cross dressing to take Powers out in the beginning sets the viewer up to think that he’s going to be right the second time, but it ends humorously when he just stupidly decks an old lady in the face. This is also part of the films numerous repeating jokes, which know when to quit and don’t tire out. Dr. Evil just takes out one of his henchmen for failing him, but the furnace doesn’t kill him in the two times it runs. So Dr. Evil has the man shot, which also takes two tries. It works the next two times, but when Number 2 sits down to explain why he betrayed Dr. Evil, the joke was clever the first time and it’s expected this time, but it works just fine.
A significant amount of humor present in the film doesn't have to do with satirizing the spy genre and is instead revolves around Powers and Dr. Evil being temporal fishes out of water. Austin just can’t seem to grasp that his ideas of constant sex and free love are old hat and just don’t fly in the 90s, which sees them as sexual harassment. It leads him to go on an archive binge of the last 30 years and he’s surprised at what he’s missed. Furthermore, when he’s unfrozen, he thinks the presence of Russian military is a crazy idea and then admits to embracing communism before being told the West won. As for Dr. Evil, he doesn’t seem to realize that a million dollars and a hundred million dollars really isn’t a whole lot of money in the 90s and constantly has to be told to up his ransom to a hundred billion.
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Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards
- Best Fantasy Film
MTV Movie Awards
- Best Villain
- Best Dance Sequence
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, Saturn Award
- Best Costumes
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards
- Favorite Actor - Comedy (Mike Myers)
- Favorite Actress - Comedy (Elizabeth Hurley)
MTV Movie Awards
- Best Movie
- Best Comedic Performance (Mike Myers)
Online Film & Television Association Awards
- Best First Feature Film (Jay Roach)