Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Growing up when I did in the early sixties spy movies were all the rage. James Bond, Matt Helm, Derek Flint were all icons of our culture. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery revisits this genre with humor and tongue planted firmly in cheek. As with most spy movies the plot is rather simple. As with most good satires the film playfully steals from the classics of the genre. Master criminal Dr. Evil is set on world domination. (Arent they always) The only man that can stop him is British secret agent, Austin Powers. Women want him, men want to be him, he is the essence of the suave sixties spy, NOT. When trapped Dr. Evil has himself cryogenically frozen to return thirty years later. Determined to catch his foe Powers is also frozen. In the late nineties both men are defrosted to resume the battle. Sight gags are plentifully in this lighthearted farce in a manner reminiscent of British sitcom classics like Fawlty Towers and Monty Python. Each character is perfectly crafted to poke fun at one or more of the adversaries we love to hate in the Bond films. The result is an hour and a half of enjoyment without the need to think or analysis the film.
The performances are what truly bring this film to life. Mike Myers shows that he is a man of many talents. He wrote the screenplay, acted in two of the main roles and was one of the producers (surprisingly along with co-producer Demi Moore). The humor is often sophomoric and on the level of bathroom humor, sometimes this is very literally true. Still, you will find yourself laughing out loud throughout the movie. Elizabeth Hurley plays Vanessa Kensington, the modern nineties woman that is teamed with the very sixties Powers. While he is stuck in the era of free love she is from the generation of sexual caution and gender equity in the workplace. The two clash at times but more often than not the contrast is fuel for laughter. Robert Wagner is perfect as the evil henchman Number Two. He brings a quiet class to the role that provides the perfect straight man for Myers.
Director M. Jay Roach must have had a difficult time holding this cast in check during the shooting. He managers to balance the improvisational skills of Myers with the need to stick to a well-crafted script. His style in this film accurately emulates the style of these classic sixties spy thrillers. Each shot brought back memories of the Bond films of my youth.
The disc is very well produced. As it happens, this disc was first loaned to me when I got a DVD drive on a new computer and it was a factor in prompting me to move up to a home theater DVD system. The Dolby 5.1 sound is a bit under played. The rear speakers could have been used to better advantage. The sub woofer provides emphasis to the explosions that are part and parcel to the film. The video is reference quality, without any compression artifacts. Among the extras is a commentary track featuring Myers and Roach. This is a bit disappointing as both participants allow long periods of time to go by without saying a word. I feel that a commentary track should be heavier on the comments and a bit less of silence. Bottom line is this film is a comedy classic that will endure.