Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Retro Review: The Austin Powers Trilogy

 Well, this shouldn't take long. I don't like Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, or Austin Powers in Goldmember.

 That was easy.

 Oh, you wanted more than that. A "retro review" is supposed to be a reconsideration of a particular film or series of films, putting them in their original context and then tracing the way they change with audiences. Who said that? I said that? That doesn't sound like something I'd say. It is though?

 Damn. Okay, let's do it your way then.

  In 1997, based on his Mike Myers' track record from Saturday Night Live, Wayne's World, and So I Married an Axe Murderer, young Cap'n went to see Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. I wasn't as familiar with the spy genre, specifically the "Flint" series of films, and more broadly the goofy version of spy films from the 1960s. I certainly hadn't seen Casino Royale and there's a strong chance I'd only seen one or two of the proper James Bond films at that point. But hey, it's Mike Myers playing an international super spy and a madman! How bad could it be?

 I don't really remember feeling one way or another about the film, other than thinking it was really stupid. I remember not liking the scene with Will Ferrell as Mustafa, mostly because I really hated Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live in 1997 and didn't find him to be very funny in the movie. It's been so long since I saw the film that I couldn't tell you much about it, although for reasons I don't quite understand I ended up having Austin Powers on VHS and that it made periodic appearances in college.

  Here's the part where the "reconsideration" comes into play: in the summer of 1999, I was really looking forward to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. I don't know why. Let's argue, just for the hell of it, that because the summer of 1999 was a big magical when it came to the plethora of movies EVERYBODY wanted to see. For example: South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, American Pie, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, The Mummy, The Blair Witch Project, Eyes Wide Shut, The Haunting, Bowfinger, Mystery Men, Detroit Rock City, The Sixth Sense, Runaway Bride, Deep Blue Sea, and Wild Wild West.

 What was that? Not the last two? Really? Surely Deep Blue Sea. No?

 Let's assume, that based on the intoxicating effects of a summer of movies that provided entertainment for most, and a break from the summer heat for all, that a guy like the Cap'n who by the way worked at a movie theatre and could see any and all of them for free might be excited for movies he may not be so interested in now. Like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Fucked Shagged Me. I'll never forget the look on the face of a tourist from the United Kingdom when he saw the poster for the film and then read the title. And then read it again.

 So anyway, if you haven't figured it out, I REALLY liked the second Austin Powers film. I don't know why, but it just caught my funny bone and wouldn't let go, and I'm pretty sure I saw it three or four times that summer. I know I arranged a special screening just for some friends from high school, and that was the second or third time I'd seen it. Suddenly everything I didn't like about the first film clicked and I laughed and laughed.

 And then it came out on video, or maybe DVD. I don't remember when I saw it again, but suddenly it wasn't funny. Not at all. Outside of the crowd howling with laughter and divorced from the pop culture references that faded away, the movie was a mishmash of gags that weren't funny or relied too heavily on topical humor. It was a sobering moment, one I would come to understand again when I saw Shrek, another movie that worked exactly one time and then was dated immediately. This may not be fair, but the thing they had in common was Mike Myers.

 Fast forward to 2002, when in a "what the hell / why not?" moment, I went with a friend to see Austin Powers in Goldmember. Boy, was that a mistake. We realized it shortly after the opening "movie-within-a-movie" version of Austin Powers, "Austinpussy", where Tom Cruise was the titular character and Kevin Spacey was Dr. Evil. Danny DeVito was Mini-Me. Steven Spielberg was the director. What Britney Spears had to do with it, I can't remember, but she was there.

 About ten minutes in, my friend wanted to leave. I've turned a few movies off, but I've never left a movie, and I've seen some real dreck (shocker!). Goldmember had me tempted, and while we should have thrown in the towel knowing we'd be all the better for it, I insisted we stay and "get our money's worth." We paid for this garbage, and dammit, we were going to sit through it. If we didn't, how would we ever make it through The Matrix Reloaded or Alien Vs. Predator?

 Distaste turned into disdain turned into seething hatred by the end of the film. Not even the presence of Michael Caine as Nigel Powers or the evolution of Seth Green's Scott Evil into a truly dangerous psychopath could salvage Goldmember. And I don't even want to talk about Goldmember the character, another opportunity for Myers to trot out a silly voice with a silly look and nothing else. Just like Fat Bastard, as the third film made painfully clear.

 I have not seen Goldmember again and don't ever plan to. Now there's a fourth Austin Powers film in the works, because The Love Guru wasn't the final nail in Myers' theatrical coffin, it turns out. Never saw that, either. To be honest, I haven't seen Mike Myers in a film I liked other than Inglourious Basterds, and it wasn't his "British Officer Who Provides Exposition" that made the film for me.

 So let's go out on a limb here and guess that since The Spy Who Shagged Me went back to the 60s and Goldmember went to the 1970s that we're in for Austin Powers in the 1980s. The jokes write themselves! Please forgive me for sparing you the review for that film, even if it would be a "So You Won't Have To."

 On that note, I think the short version would have sufficed for all of us, no?


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