International Man of Mystery"
Opened: May 2, 1997 Rated: PG-13
If anybody can make a James Bond spoof as deadpan funny as "Our Man Flint" it's Mike Myers, or so I told myself in anticipation of "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery."
I hate being wrong.
Thirty years after the poker-faced "Flint" movies mocked 007 with debonair super-spy Derek Flint, who wore hip huggers with gadget belts and knew bouillabaisse like some secret agents know fine wine, James Bond has been resurrected and is once again ripe for satire.
But "Austin Powers" feels more like the unfortunate amalgamation of a drawer full of short skits Myers has been holding on to since "Saturday Night Live." His script (he wrote and produced in addition to starring) has only about 10 minutes of story used to weakly string together a catalog of knock-knock-quality jokes, many of which run on far longer than the small laugh they supply.
Early on the parody works. Opening in 1967, we find Austin Powers (Myers) is a British swinger/spy/fashion photographer/pop culture celebrity with a psychedelic carnival wardrobe of crushed velvet and cravats.
His nemesis Dr. Evil (also played by Myers) is, of course, a bald, scarred, nerhu-wearing terrorist who strokes a fluffy white cat while killing off bounty hunters in his underground board room. Anyone who has seen early Bond pictures knows this is tease on Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of the dreaded SPECTRE.
There are dozens of nods to the Bond pictures in the early scenes, which have a Peter Sellers ring to them that raises the audience's hopes.
But Sellers himself was in a disappointing Bond spoof once -- "Casino Royale" -- a fact that serves as a harbinger that "Austin Powers" is headed for trouble.
For no apparent reason, Dr. Evil has himself cryogenically frozen during a shoot-out with Powers and re-emerges 30 years later to take another stab at world domination. Powers follows suit, waking up in 1997, and the rest of the film is one long fish-out-of-water joke with the occasional overt sexual innuendo thrown in when things get slow.
After the set-up, plot pointers show up only periodically to vaguely outline Dr. Evil's plan to steal a nuke and ransom the world for $1 million (his grasp of economics is 30 years behind).
That throw-away plot, totally void of deft or ironic references that could have made the movie cagey and clever, instead serves only as a wire framework for three run-on gags.
Gag one: Powers is paired with Agent Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), the conservative daughter of his former sex-pot partner. Powers' continual propositions to "shag" get old quickly.
Gag two: Dr. Evil tries to buddy up to his disinterested, Generation X son, born of a test-tube experiment while he was in deep freeze ("But dad, I don't want to take over the world," etc., etc.).
Gag three: Austin Powers and Dr. Evil are 30 years behind the times. Evil proposes punching a hole in the Ozone layer to kill humanity with skin cancer. When he's told that already happened, he goes with the old standby -- the nukes-and-ransom route.
The movie's shortcomings can be blamed squarely on Myers. It's his disappointing script that dwells forever on momentarily funny quips and tired stereotypes (Powers is English, therefore he has bad teeth), and his single-joke performances as Powers and Dr. Evil that dilute what could have been a snappy spoof.
After the initial homages to Flint and Bond (one girl has a double-entendre name that couldn't be printed in a family newspaper), the only fun to be had in "Austin Powers" is watching for cameos. The movie is littered with them.
Robert Wagner plays the one-eyed CEO of Evil's multi-billion dollar front company (so what does Evil need with all that ransom money anyway?) and Burt Bacharach serenades Agent Kensington on Powers' behalf.
Uncredited parts also go to Carrie Fisher, who pops up as a family therapist helping Evil work things out with junior; Tom Arnold, who plays a cowboy tourist that Powers runs into in a Las Vegas men's room; and Beavis and Butthead.