Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Austin City Limits

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997): written by Mike Myers; directed by Jay Roach; starring Mike Myers (Austin Powers, Dr. Evil), Elizabeth Hurley (Vanessa Kensington), Michael York (Basil Exposition), Seth Green (Scott Evil), and Mindy Sterling (Frau Farbissina): The first and by far the freshest of the Austin Powers movies was a moderate hit in theatres and a giant hit on home video, thus paving the way for two sequels.

Canada's Mike Myers indulges his love of many things English and a few things Scottish (and a few thing Canadian) in creating his groovy hero -- the glasses are a nod to Michael Caine's bespectacled spy in The Ipcress File and others, while the film parodies James Bond movies and The Avengers spy series while also homaging Our Man Flint and a lot of other previous comedies, including The Pink Panther movies. The distinctive, Quincy Jones "Austin Powers Theme Song" (not its real name -- that would be "Soul Bossa Nova") originally came to Myers' attention when it was used as the theme song of the El Cheapo 1970's Canadian game show Definition.

Anyway, Myers just gets in there and keeps swinging with physical comedy, body-horror comedy, puns, and winks to the audience. It works beautifully for the most part, as does co-star Elizabeth Hurley, who's funny and fresh and seems to have real chemistry with Myers. Myers' Blofeld-parody Dr. Evil is also funny here, possibly because Myers doesn't have him do a parodic rap number as he will in the subsequent two movies. Highly recommended.


Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999): written by Mike Myers and Michael McCullers; directed by Jay Roach; starring Mike Myers (Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, and Fat Bastard), Heather Graham (Felicity Shagwell), Elizabeth Hurley (Vanessa Kensington), Michael York (Basil Exposition), Seth Green (Scott Evil), Verne Troyer (Mini-Me), and Mindy Sterling (Frau Farbissina): More of the same, only louder and grosser. Verne Troyer still steals scenes as Mini-Me all these years later, and Mike Myers continues to be a gamer, this time playing three characters. 

Sending Austin back to the 1960's jettisons much of the first movie's 'Fish Out of Water' comedy. And Heather Graham, also a gamer, just isn't all that funny as the perpetually wide-eyed Felicity Shagwell. Myers' comic grotesque Scotsman Fat Bastard grows on you, especially his repeated verbal riffs on eating babies (and Mini-me). That he wears a delivery-man outfit with an 'FBD' patch on it (Fat Bastard Delivery, I presume) cracks me up with its attention to detail. Recommended.


Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002): written by Mike Myers and Michael McCullers; directed by Jay Roach; starring Mike Myers (Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard, and Goldmember), Beyonce Knowles (Foxy Cleopatra), Michael York (Basil Exposition), Seth Green (Scott Evil), Verne Troyer (Mini-Me), and Mindy Sterling (Frau Farbissina): The Austin Powers franchise runs out of steam pretty quickly here. An opening piece of meta-comedy doesn't play as funny as it sounds, while the celebrity cameos now seem like something of a drag. 

The funniest bits all seem to involve Michael Caine as Austin's swinging spy daddy in a nod to Caine's formative influence on the glasses-wearing Austin as a glasses-wearing superspy in 1960's spy films The Ipcress File and Billion-Dollar Brain. Beyonce and Myers have no chemistry, which at least allows Beyonce to escape the movie with her dignity intact (unlike Heather Graham in the previous installment, stuck in bed with Fat Bastard).

Padding the movie are lazy parodies of British boarding schools (and perhaps the first Harry Potter film), The Silence of the Lambs, and possibly Myers' dramatic turn in the film 54. Beyonce is charming and cute as a bug. Roller-skating Dutch egomaniac Goldmember (Myers again) is grotesque without being particularly funny. There are enough laughs for an Austin Powers completist, but the subtitle of this third film in the Austin Powers 'trilogy' could very well have been So Very Tired. Lightly recommended.

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