Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Mike Myers
Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green
Comedic brilliance is such a difficult task because at times it can be so personal and accepting the fact that not everyone will find it funny. It ends up being a subjective experience for the individual. In my personal experience, I have not enjoyed many comedies more than I have Austin Powers: International of Mystery as it looks to parody a beloved franchise and delivers joke after joke that lands each time.
With his nemesis deciding to cryogenically freeze himself, Austin Powers (Mike Myers) decides to do the same in 1967. After Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) awakens in 1997 with the plan of holding the world hostage over nuclear warheads, British intelligence awakens Powers. Having to transition to a different era, Powers must find a way to stop Dr. Evil.
It’s hard for me to think of another comedian that has left such an impact on me as Mike Myers has done throughout his career. He possesses his own brand of humor that has led him to success from something like Wayne’s World and using his voice in Shrek. His best work, in my mind, will forever be his work as Austin Powers. With this film, he reaches the apex of his comedic capabilities because he knows exactly what he’s doing. Having written the script himself, he takes this film and makes it work as a wild jamboree.
The story serves as a parody of the 007 James Bond films that always follow a British spy in his attempts to thwart the plans of physically imperfect villains and always ends up getting the girl. Myers takes this story and exposes it for the ridiculousness they convey. Austin Powers awakens after having lived in the 60s and now has to conform to the 90s with the help of Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley). Powers learns that his lingo and behavior may not be as acceptable 30 years later as the world has evolved. It confuses him because he was a sex symbol in his day. Whether it be his large amount of chest hair or his terrible British teeth. All the ladies wanted him but the appeals have changed in the new century. It serves as a funny look at the 007 films because they suffer the same issue of having deeply misogynistic roots and how they look sillier with each new iteration of the British spy. Bond does not play as well today, because, in reality, that character is just sad in the way he cannot hang onto any relationship and continues to snag younger women during his missions.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen this film because it’s been a staple of my movie-watching life. The first viewing probably occurred when I was too young to understand many of the jokes, but as I have grown up, I just love it more. International Man of Mystery contains a plethora of quotable lines that I throw out at least once a week. The humor works because of the strange charm Powers has even with his comedic overconfidence. All of that charm needs to deflect off an integral character, Vanessa.
Without the support of Elizabeth Hurley as Vanessa, the jokes would not work. She serves as the straight man in the story as she needs to help Powers get acclimated to the new decade and must put up with all of his shenanigans. She continually must correct him on updated terminology and just how things work now. Vanessa never stoops to the humor of Powers because of her professional nature and their contrast makes the story funnier. Hurley and Myers build a great pair of characters here and build the chemistry that the future films in this franchise could not reach.
With a plot that resembles a Bond film, the villain plays an integral part to the success and Dr. Evil worked perfectly. Also, portrayed by Mike Myers, Dr. Evil represents the most comically unoriginal villain but does so in such a funny way. He throws tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants like having sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. While also being frozen for three decades, his initial ransom demand to the United Nations was $1 million, which did not have as much weight due to inflation. All of the different mannerisms equate to an equally golden comedic performance here by Myers.
Elements of the film have not aged perfectly well since 1997, but it definitely lands most of its jokes fairly perfectly. So much more could be said about Mike Myers, who really made this film a success through his writing and dual performances. There’s also so many hilarious moments that I did not fully touch upon like the useless henchmen, Powers using his sexy dancing to eliminate some enemies, and trying to turn around a cart. International Man of Mystery will always be a film that I can have on in the background because I’ve seen it so many times already, but I can still watch it through and get equally engaging moments from it. One of my favorite comedies that I recommend to anyone looking for a good and ridiculous laugh.