I am resisting great temptation to pepper this review with phrases made by Austin Powers, the primary protagonist; shagadelic phrases like "groovy, baby" or "oh, behave!". The fact that I have such a temptation indicates how infectious Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is.
In the film, Mike Myers plays a James Bond-like secret agent, Austin Powers, who is cryogenically frozen to be thawed in the future to fight his evil nemesis Dr. Evil (also played by Myers). When both Dr. Evil and Austin are re-thawed they find themselves in a world that is not quite what they thought. Gone are the sex-crazed drug-filled hedonistic days of the 70s (much to Austin's chagrin). Dr. Evil once again plans to take over the world and once again, it's up to the international man of mystery to save it. He is aided in his quest by the sexy Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley).
The plot is just a backdrop for the continuous stream of gags that run from start to finish. A lot of the humour in Austin Powers is derived from the constant repetition of a single gag such that even if the gag in and of itself isn't very funny, hearing it again and again can't help but make you laugh. Humour is also derived from the fact that both Austin Powers and Dr. Evil have missed out a lot on what has happened in the last thirty years. Both Austin and Dr. Evil are out of place in the 90s and in some ways, this could serve as social commentary on the generation gap.
Like There's Something About Mary and Jim Carrey films like Dumb and Dumber, the originality of the humour is what makes Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery a stand-out film. Equally importantly, the acting by a seemingly earnest Mike Myers is amazing. He not only pulls of a geeky-yet-charming Austin Powers, but also the bumbling-but-evil Dr. Evil. The supporting cast, featuring Robert Wagner as Number Two, Seth Green as Dr. Evil's son Scott, Mindy Sterling as Frau Farbissina, and an indulgent Elizabeth Hurley as Austin's sidekick and love-interest are all excellent but Myers has the centre stage.
Classic scenes (and there are many of them) include one in the toilet with Tom Arnold, a therapy session featuring Dr. Evil and his son (where Carrie Fisher has a cameo), and one where Austin and Vanessa are cavorting around naked while objects strategically are placed in front of their private parts.
Mike Myers manages to project an air of enthusiasm that is incredibly contagious and makes us believe he's really enjoying his work. In a lot of ways, this movie reminds of the Saturday Night Live episode featuring Jim Carrey.
"Houston, we have a problem." No, it's not Apollo 13 in trouble; it's a message signalling the return of Dr. Evil in the sequel to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Yes, Austin Powers is back---and he's been to an orthodontist!
Like with its predecessor, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is funny because it beats a joke to death (jokes that have already been beaten to death in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery); the film is hilarious because it contains some of the most novel and imaginative humour I've seen.
After the Bondian introduction, complete with the theme song, the basic plot is laid out for us: Dr. Evil travels back in time from 1999 to 1969 where Austin is cryogenically frozen to steal his "mojo", his sexual spirit. This would enable Dr. Evil to do away with Austin Powers once and for all. This time, after discovering his one true love Vanessa Kensington (cameo by Elizabeth Hurley) is a fem-bot, he is aided by Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) to recover his mojo. Again, the movie is a string of gags connected together by an extremely tenuous thread.
The inventive humour scenes include the display of Felicity doing bizarre things to Austin as seen through their tent's shadows when in reality they're behaving in the most innocent manner possible. The camera pans to describe an object in the sky that resembles a giant <insert word of choice for the male phallic symbol here> is a stroke of brilliance (and allows for some cool cameos). Dr. Evil's miniature clone, Mini-me (Verne Troyer) is also good for a few laughs as is Fat Bastard, an overweight character also played by Myers.
The film is highly irreverent; Starbucks, Star Wars, Independence Day, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, Jerry Springer, and of course James Bond, are all made fun of. The film doesn't take itself seriously and is self-effacing: the audience is admonished to not pay attention to the time travel paradoxes and other inconsistencies (such as how the English countryside in no way resembles Southern California). The film has such gross moments that it got the entire groaning and laughing in despair: these are scenes involving Fat Bastard (or things left in his behind or what he's left behind).
The acting once again is impeccable, but this time the supporting cast is given more of the spotlight. In particular, Rob Lowe as a young Number Two does an amazing Robert Wagner impersonation. Heather Graham has a difficult role and in some aspects she does better than Elizabeth Hurley in the same position. In particular, she is good as a bemused counterpart to Austin Powers but she acts as though she's in love with Mike Myers (not Austin Powers).
Like with the first film, there's so much attention paid to detail here that you can't help but admire the attempt at humour even if you don't find it funny, and given that density of jokes, you're bound to like a fair chunk of it. I highly recommend checking this out.
One of the interesting things about being creative is that once you stumble upon a great idea, it's hard to let go of it, let alone top it. All one can do is run around in circles around the space of the idea. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this: why mess with something that works? At the same time, there's a nagging feeling that one isn't really being that creative anymore.
Consider George Lucas and Star Wars. In the first film, he introduced us to concepts like the light sabre, the force, the Jedi Knights, etc., developing a rich mythology. In his latter films, he has pretty much stuck to variations of the same thing. The same could be said for many other films and other human endeavours. Austin Powers in Goldmember is no exception.
The same gags seen in International Man of Mystery and The Spy Who Shagged Me are recycled here. But they are done with so much energy and a sense of fun, that it's a pleasure to watch them.
Here, Austin Powers (Mike Myers) travels back in time to stop the evil Goldmember (Powers) who is collaborating with Dr. Evil (Powers) to launch a device that will flood the earth. Aiding him in his quest is Foxy Cleopatra (Bernice Knowles) and his father (Michael Caine) who's also a Shagadelic Swinger himself, but who Austin can never seem to please.
Myers is great here as usual; he's so made up in his different characters that it's hard to remember what he looks like. Knowles acts in an incongruous manner (being loud at the weirdest of times), but all that matters is that she looks great and has a great smile.
Again, the shadow gag illustrates the genius hidden in the Austin Powers movie series, as do the gags involving the various terms used for a penis, and the opening scene where Powers parades around nude. But all these gags have been tried before in the previous films. There's a novel gag here in the opening sequence which features, within a span of minutes, a large number of surprises. This is the best five minutes of the film!
The ending this time has a twist, and portents things to come that might be somewhat different from what we've seen before, and perhaps great fun. Austin Powers in Goldmember is a fun movie to watch; I definitely recommend checking it out on the big screen!