Having really liked the latest installment of the “Austin Powers” franchise, I have gone back and re-watched “The Spy Who Shagged Me”, and now this one, “International Man of Mystery”, the movie that started it all. Once more, Mike Myers plays the ’60s British spy with bad teeth who is cryogenically frozen and re-awaken 30 years later in 1997 in order to continue his never ending battle with his arch nemesis, Dr. Evil (also Myers).
By now it’ll probably sound like an echo, but “Austin Power” is most funny when it spends its time with Dr. Evil and his nest of incompetent henchmen and his angst-ridden son Scott (Seth Green). Having frozen himself in space for the last 30 years, Dr. Evil returns to blackmail the world for $1 million dollars, until his Number Two (Robert Wagner) informs him that $1 million is chump change in 1997. As Dr. Evil tries to adjust to his new surroundings, so too does Austin Powers, who finds free love and bad teeth to be out of fashion when he’s teamed up with British agent Vanessa (Elizabeth Hurley) and sent to Las Vegas to discover Dr. Evil’s nefarious plans.
“Austin Powers” opens up with one of those sing-and-dance numbers that’s become routine in the franchise, although I could have done without it. (I’m sorry, I’m just not a sing-and-dance kinda guy.) Of note is Mimi Rogers, who has an embarrassing cameo as Vanessa’s mother and the former Agent Kensington, who used to run with Austin Powers in the ’60s. Rogers is so uncomfortable in the role that I wonder why she did it in the first place. Ex-model Elizabeth Hurley is the first hot babe in the “Austin Powers” movie, and she’s certainly the finest one in my book. Super sleek and sexy in a suit or a tight black leather outfit, Hurley is gorgeous here.
Having long ago decided to make fun of the James Bond movies, “Austin Powers” introduces us to Alotta Fagina (Fabiana Udenio), another one of Dr. Evil’s sexy hench, er, woman. Former “SNL” cast member Will Ferrell is Mustafa, the henchman who refuses to die. (Ferrell also showed up in “The Spy Who Shagged Me”, although I’m not sure about “Goldmember”.) Not quite as funny as the most recent installment in the franchise, this original is nevertheless still good for some chuckles, and Dr. Evil’s attempts to bring not-so-evil son Scott into the family business also offer up some good laughs.
Jay Roach directs “Austin Powers” from Mike Myers’ screenplay, and the movie is quick enough at just under 90 minutes not to wear out its welcome. A lot of the silly romance between Austin Powers and Vanessa, I suppose, is one of those necessary things. To be honest, I could have done with less Austin flashing his out of shape body and more of Dr. Evil trying to get a handle on what it means to be evil in the ’90s.
For volume of laughs, I still think “Goldmember” is the best of the bunch.
Jay Roach (director) / Mike Myers (screenplay)
CAST: Mike Myers …. Austin Powers/Dr. Evil
Elizabeth Hurley …. Vanessa Kensington
Michael York …. Basil Exposition