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Wayback Wednesday: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

1967, 1997, 2019…this movie is groovy in any decade baby!

Do you want to hear something truly, absolutely bizarre? On Monday night, on a complete whim, I decided to watch Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) for today’s Wayback review. Then, last night when I was walking home, I passed Yonge and Dundas Square and you’ll never believe what movie was playing in the square. That’s right. At least a hundred people were sitting in folding chairs watching Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery outside in the open air! How cool and weird is that? If I had known, I definitely would have watched it there rather than watching it by myself on my couch. If anything, this just proves that this movie is not only still wildly popular, but shagadelic baby. I’m so sorry, but I just had to work that line somewhere into this review.

Screen Shot 2019-08-20 at 9.45.53 PM
Credit: / New Line Cinema

The first instalment in the trilogy, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery follows the titular hero as he wakes up in 1997 after having been cryogenically frozen for the last 30 years. Revived so that he can foil the plot of the nefarious Dr. Evil, the swinging spy must adapt to life in the 1990s while accompanied by the fearless Vanessa Kensington.

Belive it or not but I think I’m the only person to have made it through the 90s and early 2000s without seeing this movie. I remember catching bits and pieces of the sequel at my cottage, but the only one I’ve seen all the way through is the third because hello, it has Beyoncé and Michael Caine. But now after being properly introduced to Austin “Danger” Powers, I understand why the series is so beloved. A fantastically stupid send-up of the 60s and spy films in general, they just don’t make nonsensically absurd action comedies like this anymore. Action comedies these days are great, but a lot of them feel like they’re trying too hard to juggle being fun with also being grounded firmly in reality. Even superhero movies like to have an explanation for everything. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery has no such worries. It leans into its own irreverence and in doing so, makes the movie much more endearing than if they were taking things seriously. Few movies are willing to be as ridiculous and off-beat and I suppose part of that carefree attitude comes from it being a parody movie. Outside of anything Mel Brooks has done, this is easily the best series of parody films we can remember, right?

It’s so weird to think that when he was both writing and performing the character, Mike Myers had no idea just how iconic and frequently impersonated Austin Powers would become. Sidenote, MAJOR props to Myers for being the sole writer on this movie! Sure, it’s not exactly Shakespeare, but I’m always a huge fan of anyone who pulls double duty on a movie set. And Myers certainly proves to be just as talented in front of the camera as he is behind the keyboard. His portrayal of Powers as well as Dr. Evil are both memorably hilarious, and it speaks to his comedic ability to be able to create two such larger than life characters. Myers as Powers is lovably obnoxious, comically dorky and of course, groovy (believe me, I’m trying my best to use this sparingly) but it’s his scenes as Dr. Evil that are by far the funniest parts of the movie. In fact, I would’t be mad if the entire movie had been just about Dr. Evil. Wouldn’t you just love watching an hour and a half (the optimal running time for a movie by the way) of Dr. Evil learning to cope with the modern world, attempting to carry out his villainous plan, dealing with bumbling henchmen and getting to know his son Scott? Witnessing Dr. Evil and Scott in father and son group therapy is priceless. That’s how funny and interesting Myers makes this character. I said it in my Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) review and I’ll say it again: We forgive you for The Love Guru (2008) Mike! Please come back! God, I miss him. By the way, you can check out my review for Bohemian Rhapsody here.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is like the movie equivalent of third-grade recess: It’s delightfully playful and does whatever it thinks is going to get its audience to laugh. Hell, during the opening credits I was already smiling known how much fun and joy this movie oozes. It also helps that the opening theme song is not only damn catchy, but massively iconic. In fact, the story is so straightforward self-contained with such low-stakes, that I question if it would even be greenlit today. The lack of superheroes or existing property might make some studio executives nervous, but the brilliantly written script would be enough to convince them togged the movie made. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is actually very smart in the way it lampoons the wonderful wackiness of the 60s and spy movies. You know what else is wonderful? The phenomenally funny cameos the movie squeezes in from Burt Bacharach, Tom Arnold, Will Ferrell and Carrie Fisher! Amazing that the movie was able to land all that talent with a $16 million budget. I guess that’s the type of star power you can score when Demi Moore produces your movie. Yes, you read that correctly: Demi Moore was a producer on Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. 

Filled with iconic catchphrases, practical sets and more than one sly name-based pun, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is a treat from start to finish. I mean this in the best way possible, but it’s very much a product of its time. Its a fiercely funny, harmless, little slice of greatness from the late 90s sure to satisfy any fan of action comedies. If you haven’t seen it in a while, give it a rewatch. It’s lighthearted, short, and full of bits that may seem juvenile, but are undeniably fun and still hold up today. Finally, let me leave you with this: Where is Elizabeth Hurley these days? She’s lovely! Dear Elizabeth Hurley, please be in more movies and please bring Mike Myers with you.

Are you a fan of the Austin Powers series? Which instalment is your favourite?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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