Revisiting Austin Powers
By: Willden Doherty
Austin Powers was the creation of former SNL and Wayne’s World star Mike Myers. It came out in the late 90s and was a hit, going on to spawn two sequels that were just as successful. Because the film is now 20 years old, it’s time to look back and see if it still holds up.
The film is set up as a parody of James Bond films. It starts out with a prologue in the 60s then travels to what was current time at its release. The time period of the 90s is referenced multiple times because of Powers having to adjust to his new environment. The plot is basically Powers being a man of mystery who has to stop Dr. Evil from holding the planet for ransom. Myers puts himself at the forefront, not only playing Powers, but Dr. Evil as well, and does a great job of tricking the audience into believing these characters are two different people. As such, he is in just about every scene of the movie.
Elizabeth Hurley plays his partner/love interest and does a fine job with absurdity of it all. She plays it as a woman who is charmed by the sex appeal of Powers while defending herself in moments of danger. The supporting actors have fun with the material, too. This film gave us an introduction to Seth Green, who was just starting his career, and some fun cameos from actors including Will Ferrell, Burt Bacharach, and Tom Arnold that elevate the experience.
What makes this film work is how it parodies everything we know about James Bond and shows how ridiculous the concept can be. Even if you haven’t seen any Bond film, you will still get most of the gags because they reflect many stereotypes seen in many spy films. The humor is equally split between dialogue and physical moments. The physical humor still holds up very well. There is a standout joke involving a machine you still remember years later. The script works well enough, delivering gag after gag, which could get less effective over multiple views.
That is the one problem I have with this film: after seeing so many comedies that have raised the stakes in content, it’s weird to go watch this. While I laughed during the movie, I didn’t find it as funny as I remembered. In recent years, James Bond has been reborn into something that has changed the formula of the franchise. The parody aspect of Austin Powers might have not worked as well if it was released today. However, it is still worth a watch as it succeeds in being entertaining.