Weekly Wire
Metro Pulse Shaken, Stirred, Whatever

By Coury Turczyn

NOVEMBER 10, 1997:  Much has been made in the Metro Pulse letters section of Young Master Zak Weisfeld's merciless trashing of all that we hold dear in cinema. And while I agree with him 99 percent of the time—especially in his loathing for former Saturday Night Live skit comics—I must part ways in his low regard of Mike Myers' Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Yes, Myers can be an annoying lump guilty of one-joke-itis, but Austin Powers transcends his inherent flaccidity with a richness of detail that makes it the best movie parody since, oh, the first Naked Gun.

Myers plays Austin Powers, a British secret agent put into suspended animation 30 years previously. Thawed out to battle his nemesis Dr. Evil, he's a walking anachronism in crushed velvet pants espousing free love and mind-expanding drugs. While that joke ("Welcome to the '90s, Austin!") gets plenty of mileage, the real comedy comes from identifying all the '60s movies being sliced and diced. There are the full-body leather jumpsuits from The Avengers, the super-cool fashion photo shoots from Blow-Up, the squealing army of fan-girls chasing our hero from Help!, the bizarre dialogue from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. And, of course, there are the James Bond references, like Dr. Evil's massive underground complex, complete with an army in silly "mod" uniforms and a super-weapon that requires a monotone countdown over the P.A. system. All of these references are channeled with élan and are a hoot for any fan of cheesy '60s spy movies.

Speaking of which, you can still see Austin Powers' influences in the original James Bond parodies from the '60s on tape or cable. Although they're certainly camp icons, you may hit the eject button before sitting through their entire length. There is, for instance, Dean Martin's Matt Helm series, the first of which is The Silencers. While the plot is standard stuff (Victor Buono's got a missile!), the main pleasure lies in watching flabby, greasy, woozy Deano sort of pretend he's a super-spy. Sometimes even he looks puzzled by the silliness of it all. Then there's James Coburn's Our Man Flint and In Like Flint—which is even more fun because you can kind of believe that Coburn is a genius-level sleuth and black belt who lives in an amazing bachelor pad populated by lingerie-wearing assistants. Yowza! And then there's Casino Royale, based on an actual Ian Fleming novel and cast with such superstars as David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen. While this out-and-out parody ought to be hilarious, it mostly sucks—being over-long, unfunny, and just plain uninteresting. Believe me, Austin Powers is much more enjoyable—you get to see Myers raise his aspirations instead of watching Sellers and Allen lower theirs.


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