Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

As discussed in our review of The 10th Victim, Austin Powers came about as a result of being inspired by that strange 60’s precursor to The Running Man

Austin Powers started in a Mike Myers music side project known as Ming Tea, the sponsor from that movie. Featuring Myers as Austin on vocals, The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs as Gillian Shagwell, Matthew Sweet as Sid Belvedere, Stuart Johnson as Manny Stixman and Christopher Ward as Trevor Aigburth, the band recorded several songs, including two that appeared in Austin Powers films.

Myers’ then-wife Robin Ruzan encouraged him to write a film based on the character. This movie, directed by Hoffs’ husband Jay Roach, is the result.

Myers said, “After my dad died in 1991, I was taking stock of his influence on me as a person and his influence on me with comedy in general. So Austin Powers was a tribute to my father, who [introduced me to] James Bond, Peter Sellers, the Beatles, The Goodies, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.”

The funny thing is that Myers ended up having a direct impact on Bond. Daniel Craig credits the Austin Powers franchise with the serious tone of his version of 007. “We had to destroy the myth because Mike Myers fucked us.”

Back in 1967, Austin Danger Powers (Myers) was the greatest secret agent in the world. Teaming with the Mrs. Peel analogue Mrs. Kensington (Mimi Rogers), he chases his arch-foe Dr. Evil (also Myers, although Jim Carrey was who was supposed to get the role; Liar Liar went long and Myers took over. For what it’s worth, Myers feuded with Wayne’s World co-star Dana Carvey over the idea that he stole Carvey’s Lorne Michaels impression for this role) into a nightclub before the villain launches his Big Boy satellite into space.

Thirty years later, the world has changed. Dr. Evil returns to learn his henchman Number 2 (Robert Wagner) has gone legit, gotten rich and developed Virtucon into a real company. He also has a genetically engineered son, Scott Evil (Seth Green) to deal with.

An unfrozen Powers — who went into cryosleep to be ready for when the world needs him — is dealing with similar issues. Now partnered with Kensington’s daughter (Elizabeth Hurley), he must battle fembots and henchmen while dealing with a world where drug use and indiscriminate sex are frowned upon.

There are plenty of great villains, like Rosa Klebb-ish Fray Farbissina, Alotta Fagina (a Bond name if one ever heard one), Will Farrell as Mustafa and former MMA fighter Joe Son as the Oddjob-like Random Task.

You have to love a movie that has cameos from Charles Napier, Clint Howard and Michael York. Actually, I love this whole silly movie, despite disliking it the first time I watched it. I was in the wrong mood and with the wrong people. Now, years later, I turn to this movie as sheer comfort watching.

It’s so Bond that Dr. Evil has a cat, just like Blofeld. Mr. Bigglesworth is one of my favorite recurring gags, because when he gets angry, people die. Here’s some interesting trivia: the cat’s real name was Ted Nude-gent.

Beyond Bond, this is a movie awash in influences. Everything from the British show Adam Adamant Lives! to Derek Flint, Doctor Goldfoot and Get Smart! get put into this cultural mashup machine with very happy results.

There’s also a cut scene where Lois Chiles — Holly Goodhead herself! — cameos as the widow of the Dr. Evil henchman run over by the steamroller.

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