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IN SHORT: Stunning.
I'll say it again. Cranky can sum up Austin Powers, Michael Myers' new comedy about a swinging '60s super-agent (more of the Woody Allen as Bond rather than the Sean Connery version) deep frozen for thirty years and resuscitated in 1997 to pick up where he left off, in one word:
As in the kind of stunning a cow feels when it's taken a good one between the eyes just before the butcher slits its throat. Stunning as in "I have to watch these things." Stunning as in the look on all the faces of all the folk who sat through this thing with Cranky.
The kind of look that says: "What the hell is this thing?"
What Austin Powers wants to be is a kind of funny slash mod slash pop slash 60s hip hep feel kind of movie mixing up elements of the James Bond, Matt Helm and In Like Flynt movie series; The Avengers and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In television series (with a nod towards Secret Agent Man and star Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner as well). What it is, is not especially funny.
The story goes like this: Back in 1967 super-nasty-evil Dr. Evil, having been defeated for the umpteenth time by Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, launches himself into orbit in cryogenic suspended animation. Doing his duty Powers, too, is frozen, to await the return of Evil. That would be in 1997 where, teamed with the daughter of his former sidekick -- Elizabeth Hurley's the kid, Mimi Rogers' the mom -- he must fend off the desire to wear clothing other than crushed velvet suits and lace cravats, and satisfy his exceptional horniness. "Shag" is the euphemism used, oh, several thousand times.
Dr. Evil, for his part, has come out of deep freeze to discover that he has a son by artificial insemination. He tries to become the sensitive dad. He goes to group therapy. On the side, he plans to hold the world hostage, demanding a ransom of ONE MILLION DOLLARS! And the joke continues: The camera zooms in. ONE MILLION DOLLARS! The camera zooms out. Pause. The camera zooms in. ONE MILLION DOLLARS! The camera zooms out. Pause. The camera zooms in. ONE MILLION DOLLARS! The camera zooms out. Pause. The camera zooms in. ONE MILLION DOLLARS! The camera zooms out. Pause. Then he's told that a Million ain't squat in today's market.
It's called stomping a joke into the ground. It happens a lot. As in more than once. A number of times. Numerous occurrences. Muy times. A lot. To excess. Ad nauseum. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Robert Wagner plays Evil's Number One guy, "Number Two." Tom Arnold has a small part. Elizabeth Hurley looks good in Emma Peel leather. Mimi Rogers doesn't.
Austin Powers is ninety minutes without a belly laugh -- indeed the barely a dozen chuckles in it do not a good movie make. To be fair, the two nude scenes are especially clever in the lengths they go to *not* to show you anything. And abusing a kitty cat is always funny.
But not funny enough to save Austin Powers.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Austin Powers, he would have paid...
I don't know if even a fifteen year old would find a joke funny the dozenth time it comes out. I didn't.
Six months later: well, obviously you did. Cranky made the great mistake of seeing Austin Powers in a private screening room rather than with a real audience, as I usually do. I promise I won't make that mistake when the sequel hits, which it no doubt will.
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