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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Rated PG13

Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, and Robert Wagner

Rating:
****
out of
*****

If ever a movie has deserved a better advertising campaign, it's Austin Powers. The trailers for this movie, which I first saw before The Empire Strikes Back three months ago, made a man sitting next to me gasp, "That looks absolutely horrible!" He was right! The trailer made this movie look like a flop waiting to happen.

Well, the trailers were not only misleading, they were dead wrong. Austin Powers is a truly side-splitting spoof of the 1960's secret agent genre that spawned such characters as The Saint, James Bond and Matt Helm. Mike Myers, who wrote the script as well as playing both Austin Powers and his nemesis Dr. Evil, knows exactly how to handle this type of subject matter.

It seems that back in 1967, Dr. Evil, the world's most villainous villain, froze himself and was launched into space to wreak havoc on the world at a later time. In preparation for his return, the only man who can thwart his villainy, Austin Powers, international man of mystery, is frozen by the Ministry of Defense. When Dr. Evil's spaceship, which is shaped like a giant Bob's Big Boy sign, re-enters Earth's atmosphere in 1997, Austin Powers is re-animated and the two hopelessly out-of-date time travellers must simultaneously cope with the times and fight it out with each other.

Basically, the plot is a pastiche of gags derived from movies like Goldfinger and In Like Flint. If you've never seen at least one 1960's James Bond movie (that's with Sean Connery in the role of Bond) or watched an episode of The Avengers, then you'll be hard-pressed to make heads or tails of the humor involved here. As was all too obvious at the showing I attended, younger audiences, or those unfamiliar with the movie's influences, may find Austin Powers a bit odd for their tastes.

In keeping with my cardinal rule of reviewing comedy movies, I don't want to give anything away. My only complaint with Austin Powers is that some of the jokes drag on a little long or overstay their welcome just a bit. Even the jokes that drag on are funny, so it's not that bad. Rarely do any of the jokes or gags fall flat unless you've seen them in the trailer too many times.

Austin Powers is by no means perfect but it possesses a lot more charm and intelligence than many of this year's so-called "comedies." It's nice to see Mike Myers back in a vehicle that works so well -- especially since the Wayne's World sequel and So I Married an Axe Murderer were such disappointments.

Trivia:The radar operator that spots Dr. Evil's spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere is Clint Howard, brother of Apollo 13 director Ron Howard. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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