Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Jay Roach
Stars: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Seth Green, Robert Wagner, Will Farrell, Mindy Sterling, Paul Dillion, Fabiana Udenio, Joe Son, Burt Bacharach, uncredited cameos from Carrie Fisher, Christian Slater, Tom Arnold, Rob Lowe, Rob Cameletti, Larry Thomas.
By day an internationally renowned fashion photographer, by night a secret agent in the employ of British Intelligence, Austin Powers (Saturday Night Live‘s Mike Myers) is the epitome of ’60’s cool and style. But when his nemesis, the sinister Dr Evil (also played by Myers) has himself cryogenically frozen and orbited into space, Powers is also frozen, ready to be thawed when his skills are again required. In 1997 Evil emerges again and easily adjusts to the mercenary nature of the ’90’s. When he threatens to hold the world to ransom through nuclear terrorism, Powers is thawed out to thwart his evil scheme.
Supposedly an irreverent spoof of the cycle of camp ’60’s spy thrillers, particularly James Bond and The Avengers, Austin Powers is a rather silly and pointless film. This sort of thing has been done before, with more sophistication and genuine wit. There is a decided lack of subtlety to the material, which is toilet humour at its most obvious. A few of the more inventive sight gags work well, but, overall, the low-brow humour is pretty much hit and miss. Austin Powers is full of puerile innuendo and double entendres that appear to have have been lifted straight from the Carry On films without any concession to ’90’s sensibilities.
Myers, who also wrote the film, shoulders much of the blame for the film’s failure. In a moment of self-indulgence obviously inspired by Peter Sellers, Myers plays both the villain and the hero of the piece. As Dr Evil, a twisted Blofeld clone, he clearly has a lot of fun capturing many of the clichéd mannerisms of those memorable B-grade screen villains of yesteryear. However, his performance as the nerdy Powers is rather grating and irritating.
Model-turned-actress Elizabeth Hurley seems to be enjoying herself as Powers’ sexy assistant, Vanessa Kensington, who is bemused by his anachronistic ways. Robert Wagner sometimes seems uncomfortable as Dr Evil’s ambitious second-in-command, Number 2, while Michael York is wasted in a small role as the head of British Intelligence. A solid supporting cast make the most of the slim material, while Carrie Fisher, Tom Arnold, Rob Lowe and Christian Slater contribute uncredited cameos that merely add curiosity value.
Cynthia Charette’s production design is quite impressive, and the final confrontation in Dr Evil’s underground lair is reminiscent of the Bond movies. First time feature director Jay Roach (who co-wrote Blown Away) wonderfully captures the psychedelic look and feel of London in the Swinging ’60’s, giving the film a visual style that is quite striking.