Film Reviews

Why, Spy?

If you're hankering to see a movie that sends up swinging '60s London and Carnaby Street and vintage James Bond movies, don't bother to check out Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

What the movie mostly sends up is its star and screenwriter, Mike Myers. That's not all bad: Myers has a high old time in his crushed-velvet pants and Italian boots and black horn-rimmed glasses; he flashes Austin's nerdy rotter's smile at us, making sure we glimpse the bad dental work. Myers's parents emigrated from England to Canada, and his jabs at the psychedelia and groovy lingo of '60s London may be his way of taking a swipe at his ancestry. Austin Powers, god forbid, may be a "personal" film.

Or it may just be another stop on Myers's weird-foreigner hit parade -- an accented goof to place beside such Saturday Night Live creations as Dieter, the host of the German avant-garde show Sprockets, and Stewart, the kilted proprietor of the All Things Scottish boutique. Myers is essentially a sketch artist -- hence his Wayne's World franchise -- and Austin Powers sure is sketchy. Powers is "by day" a high fashion photographer, but the rest of the time he's a British intelligence agent who's supposed to be an amalgam of 007 and Matt Helm and Our Man Flint and all the rest; but he mostly resembles ... Mike Myers.

He also plays Powers's archnemesis, Dr. Evil, a Blofeld-like baldy who attempts to hold the world ransom for $100 billion. Shortly after the film begins, both Powers and Dr. Evil reenter the present day in a state of cryogenic preservation from 1967, so the film lobs laughs at us about how much things have changed. Evil's initial ransom offer to the United Nations, for instance, is for $1 -- count 'em, one -- million.

This Rip Van Winkle scenario doesn't really hold up, though, because Myers and his director, Jay Roach, don't seem to have much sense of the present. The film toddles off in a million directions, while actors such as Elizabeth Hurley and Robert Wagner and Michael York stand around looking waxen and clueless. Bathroom humor a la Dumb and Dumber makes frequent appearances. Wagner's character, for instance, is called "Number Two" -- get it?

That's about as sophisticated as things get in Austin Powers. Oh, yes -- one of the female spies goes by the name of Alotta Fagina. If you think that's a laff riot, there's alotta more where that came from.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Directed by Jay Roach. With Mike Meyers, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Mimi Rogers and Michael York.

Rated PG-13.
87 minutes.

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Peter Rainer