Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
directed by Jay Roach
(New Line, 1997)

If I had reviewed this movie when it first came out, I would have given it five stars for its unabashedly daring comedic exploits; now, with the knowledge of how much funnier the second Austin Powers movie was than the original, I'm giving it four.

This is not to say this isn't one of the funniest movies of all time, because I believe it is. It's rather strange how Mike Myers can make anything funny; there are old jokes and worn-out little gimmicks used in Austin Powers that would probably bomb in most other movies, yet here everything seems to work perfectly. Part of the magic formula, I believe, is the movie's self-parody and undisguised spoofing of secret agent films of the past. This strong underlying concept of the movie is best seen in the debate between Dr. Evil and his son Scott about the evil genius' needlessly elaborate and easily escapable means of eliminating Powers once he finally has him in his clutches. You know the hero's going to escape, but you have to follow the age-old formula when it comes to this type of thing; Scott doesn't "get" this, but of course the makers of most spy thrillers don't seem to "get" it themselves; I like to call this the Batman Syndrome.

Speaking of Dr. Evil, I was quite surprised to notice for the first time that the original trailers for this first movie did not really even mention him and certainly did not feature any footage of him; obviously, Austin Powers was supposed to be the star attraction here. Dr. Evil quickly becomes an equal if not superior crowd-pleaser to Austin at his grooviest, though, when you watch the movie.

I don't think I even need to mention the plot. Myers is hilarious as both the international man of mystery and the wacky Dr. Evil. Austin's certainly not your typical sex symbol, with all the hair and the yellow teeth and the unique fashion sense, and he's the exact opposite of suave, but that is what makes the whole idea so funny. Austin is cool despite himself. Elizabeth Hurley is a great leading lady for the situation in hand, although her changing sentiment about Austin could have used a little more fleshing out. Seth Greene is a great source of laughs and the type of common-sense thinking that this movie goes to great lengths to avoid as part of the whole parody thing. Robert Wagner, despite the fact he always looks out of place in silly movies like this, is great in what will be a warm-up to increased involvement in the sequel. There are also some great cameo appearances by the likes of Carrie Fisher and Tom Arnold as well.

Only those who absolutely hate silly movies won't enjoy this film because, basically, Austin Powers has everything a great comedy needs, and the unifying vision of Myers keeps the action rolling smoothly at all times.

The deleted scenes included on the DVD are quite interesting. The two original endings, playing directly off James Bond, are much inferior to the actual ending, and the second one seems to proceed on the basis that there would not be a sequel. I especially love two deleted scenes dealing with the death of two evil henchmen. I'm unsure why these were edited out, because the movie comes in under 90 minutes in length with several minutes to spare. I guess Myers didn't want to do too much of a good thing, and the final version of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was definitely a very good, and very funny, thing.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 29 May 2004

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