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'Austin Powers': Secret Agent, Man

By John F. Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 2, 1997


Scene from this movie

Jay Roach
Mike Meyers;
Elizabeth Hurley;
Michael York;
Mimi Rogers;
Robert Wagner;
Tom Arnold;
Carrie Fisher;
Rob Lowe;
Cheri Oteri;
Christian Slater
Running Time:
1 hour, 28 minutes
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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Austin Powers, a Beau Brummell in a crushed velvet suit, lace shirt and Cuban-heeled boots, is the grooviest, happeningest cat on Carnaby Street. Heís a high-fashion photographer by day, a British secret agent by night. Squired around London in a Union Jack-painted E-type Jaguar by his Emma Peel-ish sidekick, Mrs. Kensington, he does battle with arch nemesis Dr. Evil.

Or at least he does until Dr. Evil undergoes cryogenic preservation and launches himself into space. Austin volunteers to be frozen, too, with instructions that he be thawed out should Evil ever walk the Earth again. Thus begins "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," the hilarious new film from the pen of Mike Myers, who goes from spoofing public access cable TV metalheads in "Wayneís World" to satirizing secret agent flicks and silly British people.

Myers is Austin Powers. Sadly, Austinís behavior in 1997 is as out of date as his clothes. Thereís a bit of adjusting he has to make. He canít believe that birds and blokes donít go around "shagging" one another at the drop of a hat as they did in the "free love" í60s. And since Mrs. Kensington (Mimi Rogers) has retired, he tries to make time with her secret agent daughter, Vanessa. But even his Burt Bacharach make-out music doesnít seem to work.

The joke is that Austin is grotesque in the way only a Swinging Sixties swinging Englishman can be. He sports the nastiest set of teeth this side of George Harrison and even Elizabeth Hurley as Vanessa Kensington is put off by him (and we know how forgiving she is).

Myers also plays the pale and puffy Dr. Evil, who resembles what Ross Perot would look like if you kept him on a high-carbohydrate diet and under a rock for 30 years. After three decades in the deep freeze, Evil learns that his No. 2, Number Two (Robert Wagner), has diversified the Evil empire into legitimate businesses, that $1million is a laughably small amount for which to hold the planet ransom, and that it isnít easy to bond with the son he never knew he had. (When his son tells him he might want to be a veterinarian, Evil asks, "Could you at least be an evil veterinarian?")

The plot -- nuclear warheads, world domination, Las Vegas, robotic female assassins in white eye shadow and see-through teddies, etc. -- is your standard 007 stuff. It allows Myers and director Jay Roach to spoof the conceits of those films: the confrontation at the blackjack table, the underground facility crawling with bad guys in matching jump suits and helmets, the evil chick with the gynecological name, the ridiculously lax standards villains have when trying to dispatch the heroes.

If Jim Carrey is broad and elastic, Myers is a miniaturist. His Dieter, from "Saturday Night Liveís" Sprockets skit, was defined by a single pout. As Austin Powers, his bag of tics includes a cocked eyebrow, a saucy nod of the head and a rolling strut that barely contains his comic sensuality. Heís groovy, baby! With its assortment of sight gags, over-the-top performances and running penis and breast jokes, "Austin Powers" is reminiscent of the "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" movies. Somehow, though, itís less frenetic, with a few long -- almost indulgent -- scenes that let the humor slowly build. We may not need as many Austin Powers movies as there are James Bond pictures, but one or two more might be nice.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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