They don’t make movies like Austin Powers any more. This is a film which is unashamedly a spoof and from the outset a comedy. There isn’t any deeper meaning here, or attempt to be heartfelt or meaningful. This isn’t trying to capture any cultural zeitgeist or make a commentary on society today. This is a film which just wants to make the audience laugh.
To reach this aim, this is a movie full of jokes and they don’t stop. It has a gag rate as high as Airplane and a lot of them are brilliant. It manages to traverse the range of different jokes, from sight gags, wordplay or just clever versions of the typical spy-tropes that have plagued James Bond and become clichés ripe for comedy.
The MVP of the movie is of course Mike Myers. This is the type of movie that made him famous and he is clearly having fun with the role. He doesn’t look like the conventional spy but that just adds to the humour and making Austin Powers a 60s stalwart transported to the 90s means the jokes work even better. With Austin Powers, Myers creates a pop-culture icon and brings catchphrases and famous scenes to the forefront of social consciousness.
As cool and fun as Austin Powers is though, its Myers’ work as Power’s nemesis, Dr Evil, that steals the movie. The best jokes are at the expense of the villain and anything involving Dr Evil is fantastic, from his fraught relationship with his son Scott, played by Seth Green, through to his misunderstanding of how the modern world works. The film takes time to let these jokes play-out, including scenes that are in the film purely for the final joke rather than the actual progression of the storyline.
This type of film lives or dies on how successfully it captures the genre it is spoofing and Austin Powers send-up the spy genre perfectly. From Basil Exposition giving the mission, elaborate death-traps designed to be escaped from and ridiculous names, all double-entendres for female characters; you can’t help but wonder how much influence this “on-the-nose” spoof of the biggest spy franchise had on the more up-to-date redesign of Daniel Craig’s Bond.
Being a movie that tries to fit as many jokes into the running time as Austin Powers does, the gags don’t always land. Luckily, for every misfire, there is another joke being delivered to make-up for it. There is also an element of some of the film being badly dated, with jokes just not working socially or culturally anymore, but not enough that the film isn’t still hilarious in many different places.
Overall, Austin Powers is a classic comedy that just doesn’t get made anymore. It is a film which is primarily concerned with making the audience laugh and nothing else. This means the joke rate is high, the characters are funny and Mike Myers gets to do what he does best. Some jokes don’t land but enough do that this is still a great comedy.
Rating – 4
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