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By Brad Laidman | November 7, 2001

“That sort of thing ain’t my bag baby”
– Austin Powers on Swedish Penis Enlargers despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In which, Mike Myers looks at 1997 and decides it could be a lot more fun. Wow, what was going on in people’s heads in the ’60s. Everyone was living in constant fear that the world would end up the devastated victim of Atomic Nihilism, and yet when you turned on the TV you see nothing but surfing talking horses, hillbillies swimming in cement ponds, people who name their pigs, and not one but two shows about women with supernatural powers. The ’90s just can’t seem to compete with that sense of absurdity, which brings me to wonder whether Homeboys in Outer Space would have been a big hit twenty years ago if its lead in was My Favorite Martian.
I’m not sure why, but it took me a while to catch on to the warm trippy rhythms of Austin Powers, but now that I’ve managed to tune in to its day-glo psychedelic colors, foppy clothing, and gentle silly humanism, it has become one of the few things that can instantly put me back into a good mood. Every scene in this movie is a sly reference to some remnant of ’60s entertainment. It’s usually funny enough to just put Clint Howard in a movie. It’s really funny when you decide he should he reprise his Apollo 13 role by alerting the Air Force that a giant rocket shaped like Big Boy is reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.
My first thought was that everything Austin Powers attempts to satirize wasn’t really being taken very serious in the first place, but then I realized that Mike Myers isn’t really trying to take the air out of anything but our oh too serious times and he does it wonderfully by channeling the innate goofy fun of everything from Goldfinger, Help, and The Avengers to the Thomas Crown Affair, Barbarella, Lucky Charms commercials and anything else that happened to grab his attention that day.
“And so Dr. Evil escaped and had himself cryogenically frozen to return at a time when free love no longer reigned and greed and corruption ruled again.” Of course, secret agent fashion photographer Austin Powers volunteers to be frozen too just in case. Essentially, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is about two dancing pansies who battle it out over the survival of their Bizarro world. Get Smart covered just about all the same bases by making good and evil seem like goofy clubs that certain oddballs happen to populate, but Myers apparently felt that tossing in sex, urination, and Bert Bacharach could bring new life to the idea. Imagine my surprise that he was right.
Mike Myers plays both the swinging lover Powers and his arch enemy Dr. Evil. Both of Myers’ creations are so pleased with themselves that they seem to be of the belief that there couldn’t be anything in the world better to be than what they are. Dr. Evil tries to take over the world and Austin Powers tries to save it. Why? Because that’s what they were put here to do, silly. Everywhere Powers goes seems to be the place to be. He is a walking party with his mod clothes, scary teeth, and shaggy chest hair. Life for Powers is one big dance production. He seems like he almost has a marching band following him at all times. Dig the goofy Hullabaloo like inserts.
Personally, I prefer the bald Dr. Evil, and his equally hairless cat Mr. Bigglesworth. Nothing pleases Dr. Evil more than sitting around complaining about his second rate help and thinking up dastardly new ways to evilly take over the world. He rules his own little universe in huge boardroom meetings and has a control panel with a button to kill each of his compatriots including his son Scott (Seth Green), who doesn’t seem to have been clued in to the fantasy world that Papa Evil surveys. Sure the world is at stake, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a scene where Dr. Evil and Scott attend family counseling. When Scott tells his Dad he wants to be a Veteranarian, the poor bad man wonders desperately if he at least intends to be an evil one. “An evil petting zoo?” Of course, he does eventually have the group liquidated for being insolent.
Scott tries to figure out why Dr. Evil leaves Austin Powers and his cohort Miss Kensington to the ill tempered mutated sea bass, when he could just shoot them. Of course, that only explains why Dr. Evil want to kill him too.
I’m not really sure why I think that Myers’ noodling around is brilliant and similar efforts by the rest of the cast of Saturday Night Live aren’t. Maybe it’s because Mike Myers doesn’t seem to have a legitimately cruel bone in his body. Maybe it’s because Dr. Evil tries to convince his son that he is hip by doing the Macarena. In the end, I plead the same argument as that guy did about pornography. I know good silly fun when I see it. This is like the best episode of Batman if Adam West had really been as in on the joke as he claims.
Educated people will tell you that you’re not supposed to enjoy bathroom humor, but I even enjoy Tom Arnold politely asking for a courtesy flush as poor Powers is almost strangled in the next stall. In the end, the real goal of this movie actually has little to do with Dr. Evil. The main intention seems to be to get Elizabeth Hurley’s present day agent Kensington and everyone else to loosen up a bit. Mike Myers does everything here but sing The Partridge Family’s “C’mon Get Happy” from a multicolored school bus. You owe it to him to do your best to be amused.

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