Following one from the success of Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2, writer and star Mike Myers moved onto a satire of 1960s spy films. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery saw him don a crushed blue velvet suit and some bad teeth as a sexually adventurous representation of the swinging 60s, while simultaneously playing his own nemesis, the Blofeld-inspired Dr.Evil, complete with white cat, bald cap and sinister laugh. Austin Powers initially became a cult icon and then joined the mainstream after two highly successful sequels, but the original was a decent box office success taking $67m from a budget of $16.5m.
Super-spy Austin Powers (Myers) attempts to assassinate his arch-nemesis Dr. Evil (Myers) in 1967, but the evil mastermind escapes and cryogenically freezes himself.Austindoes the same, eventually being thawed out in 1997. With the help of Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), the daughter of his old sidekick, Austin must try and stop Dr. Evil from blowing up half the world with nuclear weapons while simultaneously trying to acclimatize to the late 1990s.
Like all good satires, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery takes the various themes and memorable moments from history and reduces them to the most basic level before mercilessly mocking them. In this case Myers leaves almost no stone of the 1960s spy thrillers unturned in the search for a laugh, and on the whole he’s very successful.
Starting in the over-stylised ‘swinging 60s’ Austin Powers’ great strength is its cast, who throw themselves into their characters with gusto and verve. The supporting cast, including the likes of Will Ferrell, Seth Green and Robert Wagner are all excellent. Even Hurley turns in an impressive performance as the love-interest/femme fatale, showing some surprising comic timing chops.
The star though is Mike Myers, who injects both his characters with enough silly jokes and memorable catchphrases to really leave a mark. He deftly plays upon the clichés of an over-sexed, anti-feminist alpha male, which he also subtly undermines with chest wigs and terrible teeth. The highlights of the film come form Dr. Evil, whose pinky-chewing megalomaniac really struggles to come to terms with all of his nefarious plans not only having been done before, but successfully and seemingly in a legal fashion.
Better at coping with the stereotypes of the past than the more contemporary humour, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is one of the most silly spoofs in recent years, which manages to blend high-brow comedy, with base jokes. It’s no wonder it spawned two sequels, which helped solidify the characters of Austin Powers and Dr. Evil in the pantheon of truly great comic creations.