Last night I saw Austin Powers with some other people and I can say that our opinions were mixed; so mixed in fact that I am inviting my counterpart, Kevin, to review this movie with me, because I don’t think one person’s biased opinion will be enough for this Mike Meyers vehicle.
Since it’s my mailing list, however, I will go first.
MIKE MYERS IS AN ATTENTION-STARVED WHINYBOY. That said, I will concede that there were elements of this movie that were enjoyable for me, but not enough to make a feature film. Gags I would have liked went on too long in new SNL style. Funny parts were quickly shunted off in favor of Myers preening and mugging and being so proud of his icky naked body.
The 60’s flavor was pretty accurately captured by the production team, including all the things that made 60’s movies so stupid, like meaningless cutaways to go-go dancers. If this were an episode of the Simpsons, reasoned Kevin, I would have been rolling on the floor. Perhaps; but the Simpsons would have done this as a parody of 60’s spy movies. This is a 90’s spy movie that stars a villian and hero actually from the 60’s, a la the Brady Bunch movies – it’s not a parody, it’s a fish out of water comedy, with a splash of homage to it. And that is why it doesn’t work.
It felt like a recent Mel Brooks movie – all the less funny and more sad because of how funny it *could* have been. Some great cameos helped, and I did generally like Myers’ turn as Dr. Evil – if he had gotten someone funny (or at least not as in love with himself) to play Austin Powers it would have been even better. But Myers love for himself is expressed by looking pleadingly at the camera after every mug and twitch and “yeahhh, baby!” as if to say, ‘That was funny, right, you think I’m funny?” At least Jim Carrey doesn’t care if you are watching him or liking him, he just goes for broke. Even gags of Jim’s that don’t work are less annoying due to their honesty.
Big huge kudos for the production design team – there are some great looking clothes and props and so forth in this mess. But, if you still think SNL is funny, by all means, run out and pay full price. I was given a ticket and I still wish I’d stayed home to watch NewsRadio.
Kevin on the other hand, laughed himself into choking fits. Here’s what he has to say: It’s groovy, baby! Don’t let this square babe lead you astray. Austin Powers is silly, stupid fun. Granted, it helps to be a fan of Mike Myers (especially since he plays two roles and seems to be naked much of the time), but this send-up of the sixties and spy movies hits most of its targets perfectly. Think of it as Laugh-In meets James Bond meets the 1990’s.
Some of the jokes are lame (often intentionally so), some gags go on a bit too long, but I found myself laughing quite loudly throughout this movie, and I’m not ashamed to admit it (even though Karina was threatening to break up with me the whole time). Best of all, despite being a product of a Saturday Night Live alumnus, the whole movie is relatively free of tedious SNL cameos (there’s only one, and he’s actually pretty funny). Check it out, baby! It’s shagadelic!
You be the judge. But don’t blame me if you pay good money for this and hate it!
* My thoughts two years later: Much better on video than in the theatre – the small screen’s turning the pretentious into the cute makes all the difference. I did break up with Kevin, but for more Important Movies. Choose your battles.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 4/22/1997
Time in minutes 88
Director Jay Roach
Studio New Line Cinema