There have been quite a few unsuccessful parodies of secret agent movies over the years. Casino Royale and Our Man Flint come to mind. Many spy movies, the James Bond movies in particular, are so improbable that they almost cross over to self-parody.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, succeeds where others have failed. Perhaps because it has a wider scope. It not only pokes fun at the Bond movies but looks affectionately looks back at “The Sixties,” a time of free love, mind-expanding drugs and general grooviness.
It’s 1967 and Austin Powers (Mike Myers), top British secret agent, is the hottest thing in London. He stops in the middle of the street for an impromptu dance number while being chased by a mob of screaming teenage girls, in a reference to Hard Day’s Night and some other 1960s movies. His nemesis, Dr. Evil, (also Myers), frustrated by his failed attempts to bump off Powers, has himself cryogenically frozen, to be thawed at a time “when free love no longer reigned and evil and corruption ruled again.” Powers also has himself frozen, to be thawed if Dr. Evil should return.
They both come back in 1997 to do battle and find that the world has changed drastically. The movie succeeds most with the frozen-in-time concept. Powers is absolutely and genuinely baffled that his sexy sidekick doesn’t want to have casual, unprotected sex with him on his rotating bed. One of Dr. Evil’s schemes, to steal a nuclear weapon and demand a ransom of one million dollars is laughed at by his associates and by the U.N.
The movie has its flaws. Many of the jokes, funny at first, go on for too long. And some bits are just plain stupid. There are many references to 1960s movies, which may not be appreciated by those of us who weren’t around then. Still, I found myself laughing through most of the movie. Myers is funny throughout as the goofy but charming Powers and the bizarre Dr. Evil. James Bond fans should appreciate the many references. Good parodies are hard to make, and while this one doesn’t completely succeed, it is funny and silly enough to be enjoyable.