A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 285 – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Tonight we looked over our list and did some counting and some poking at planned movies and realized two things: 1. Over half of our remaining movies are under two hours long, and 2. We’ve managed to put together a total of twelve days of Christmas movies without realizing the number. So we’ll be doing those starting on Tuesday and tonight we could pick something on the shorter side if we wanted. And we did. Something fun and familiar and easy to watch that wouldn’t leave us scrambling to write reviews in a couple of minutes before midnight.

There are a good many things I’m not particularly fond of in this movie, but a number of them can be superficially chalked up as things I’m not supposed to be fond of. I’m not in the mood to go analyzing too deeply, so I’ll keep this brief. Austin Powers is somewhat loathsome. He’s rude, ignorant and casually sexually harasses every attractive woman he meets (the unattractive ones are either ignored or assumed to be men in disguise and punched, which has its own inherent problems). And on one hand, he’s obviously a caricature. He’s a swinging sixties hipster used to free love and an entirely different time period and set of social rules, displaced into modern society where those rules are not at all the same. And that’s part of the humor. That he’s so outrageously blunt about his libido and has no clue how offensive he is. Part of it is also that, let’s face it, he’s not Sean Connery or any other super spy from the sixties. It’s laughable that he was able to get away with it all in his own decade anyhow. But then again, even though we’re supposed to find him crude and unappealing, we’re also clearly supposed to be charmed by him anyhow. And I’m not so much.

So, it’s a good thing there’s a whole ton of fantastic humor in this movie that doesn’t require me to be charmed by Austin Powers’ sexual misconduct. And really, a lot of his other gags are funny. There’s some fantastic humor here, with the totally bald-faced references to spy movie tropes like Dr. Evil flat out stating that he’s going to kill Austin in an overly-complicated way and not watch even though it means he could escape. There are jokes made about character names, typical roles, costumes, etc. And then there’s some great physical humor, such as Austin attempting to turn a little electric cart around in a narrow hallway. Austin’s acclimation to the 1990s is full of obvious jokes, like putting a CD on a turntable, but they’re played out amusingly enough to get a chuckle from me.

Really, my favorite humorous part of the movie is the interactions between Dr. Evil and his son, Scott. Now, Dr. Evil is played by Mike Myers, same as Austin Powers. Myers is a mixed bag for me. I like some of his stuff and then other things make me cringe at the very concept. And while Austin himself falls more into the latter than the former, I do love Dr. Evil. He’s a fantastic parody of a super villain and he’s also been thrown for a bit of a loop by the social differences since the sixties. Except instead of being mystified by the lack of psychedelic drugs he’s shocked to find that one million dollars is small change now. And Dr. Evil also has a son he’s never met. Scott was artificially created in a lab and only just now meeting his father, what with Dr. Evil having been frozen for thirty years to try and escape Austin Powers. And Scott, played by Seth Green, is fantastic. He’s bitter about his absent father, freaked out that said father is trying to kill him (no, really, but he’s wily like his old man!), and utterly baffled by the spy movie tropes his father insists on following. The best exchange in the movie is near the end, after Dr. Evil has explained his convoluted plan to kill Austin and his partner, Agent Vanessa Kensington, with ill-tempered mutated sea bass. Scott offers to shoot them. Dr. Evil is having none of it. And it’s fantastic. Seth Green and Mike Myers have this fantastic rapport in the scene and it plays out brilliantly. It’s a perfect example of the humor of this movie, where the ridiculousness of classic spy movies is shown for what it is.

The other thing I love about this movie is that while I’m not a Bond aficionado by any means (I know more about Bond through cultural osmosis than any other means), I am a fan of another spy staple from the 1960s: The Avengers. There’s a reason why we don’t own the monstrosity that was the modern movie adaptation of the classic series and that reason is that I’m a huge fan of the series. I wanted to be Emma Peel when I grew up. I still do, to be honest. And there are some clear callbacks to the show in this movie. Vanessa and her mother (Mrs. Kensington, Austin’s original partner from the 60s) have an Emma Peelish quality to them. The leather catsuits they wear could have come straight out of the costumes from the show. And I like that there’s a distinct feeling of homage here, not just to the Bond movies and The Avengers but to the whole genre. They’re the sorts of things that couldn’t exist now as they did then, which is largely the point. To have them exist now they’d really have to change their whole moods. And so I like this movie, despite its flaws, because there’s enough well done humor and references to make it worth it for me.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

December 10, 2010

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Michael Meyers is a funny guy. I’m not disputing that. And clearly there was enough mad genius in this movie to spawn a franchise, so I’ll not deny that there’s a charm to the Austin Powers movies. Austin Powers as a character, however, has always somewhat irritated me. It’s possible that this is intentional since part of the whole joke of the first movie is that this rude hairy troll of a man is for some reason irresistible to women (and fembots.) The fact remains, however, that I enjoy the bits with Meyers’ other character in this film, Dr. Evil, a lot more than those with Austin.

As a whole, however, this movie is great fun. It’s a very clear spoof of the James Bond franchise, with some direct references to Goldfinger especially, but it adds a lot more than that to the mix to create something strange and new. On the James Bond side you have Dr. Evil himself with his cat – clearly a reference to classic Bond villain Ernst Blofeld. There’s the bowler wearing shoe throwing henchman Random Task. There’s the sultry secretary Alotta Fagina.

There are also a few bits in the movie that feel like references to other films but might not be deliberate. When Basil Exposition (played by Michael York) first appears during the sixties at the start of the film his long blond hair is exactly like the hair York sported when playing Logan in Logan’s Run. Coincidence? Then there’s the way Mike dazedly bumbles about after Austin has been defrosted in the nineties – it is quite reminiscent of Woody Allen’s performance when his character in Sleeper is first defrosted, but I don’t know if that was a conscious choice. The artificial psychedelic feel of the start of the movie is such a pitch-perfect recreation of movies from the What’s Up Pussycat era that I am always slightly surprised that Tom Jones isn’t somehow in this movie.

If this movie had been an Abrahams and Zucker film that probably would have been it. (there are a few jokes in the movie that have a distinctly Abrakans and Zucker feel to them, such as the screaming man that Austin rolls over with a steamroller.) But this is a different kind of spoof.

For one thing there was apparently a very strong improv feel to the making of the movie. It’s most apparent in the interactions of Dr. Evil and his son Scott Evil (played with a sullen charm by my favorite werewolf Seth Green.) The two play off of each other in a light-hearted way that makes me with there were out-takes on the DVD. Indeed it feels like most of the scenes with Dr. Evil in his lair were done as improvisational exercises, it’s just the vibe they have. They’re also some of the most self-aware and hilarious scenes in the movie. When Scott asks his father directly why he doesn’t just get a gun and shoot Austin to death after capturing him and Dr. Evil explains how he thinks it a much better plan to put Powers in an easily escaped and overly complex device and then refuse to watch to make sure Austin doesn’t escape… well that’s probably the best scene in the movie.

There’s also a sort of sentimental feel to parts of the movie that I really enjoy. The scenes of Austin coming to grips with the new time period he finds himself in and how out of place he is are actually kind of touching. I love watching him there being flabbergasted by things like the lunar landing and the fall of the Berlin wall. As I have often said: we do live in the future now. (Because the future is where you and I will spend the rest of our lives. In the future.)

Mostly though this is a Mike Meyers vehicle which allows him to play two different roles (something he had already done hilariously in So I Married and Axe Murderer.) I might not enjoy some of Austin’s capering (he makes me neither horny nor randy) I can’t deny that there are a lot of fantastic gags in this movie and bits that still make me laugh no matter how many times I watch them. I look forward to Spy Who Shagged Me tomorrow night, since I’ve never actually seen that movie all the way through from beginning to end.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment