25 April 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Like a groovy 1960s concept album with only one or two disappointing tracks, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" is a gas for those in the same goofy state of mind as writer/co-star Mike Myers. The former "Saturday Night Live" regular's fourth film takes aim at perhaps too broad a demographic spectrum -- with crude physical humor and English-style satire vying for laughs -- but there's enough craziness and great gags to overcome its shortcomings.

A frequently hilarious spoof of British spy movies and the sexual revolution, with Myers playing both hero and villain, the New Line Cinema release is an underdog needing "shagedelic" word-of-mouth to break out. Myers is in top form as a randy Mod spy reawakened after 30 years in the present day, and Elizabeth Hurley ("Dangerous Ground") is delightful in her best role, promising potent international business and a strong video release for director Jay Roach's feature debut.

Myers' screenplay is a gem, starting with the musical-like opening that introduces gawky, dentally impaired Austin Powers (Myers), an effusive lover of women, all of whom he enthusiastically calls "baby." It's 1967 England and, decked out in bell bottoms and horn-rimmed glasses, Powers is a fashion photographer and top agent partnered with voluptuous, leather-clad Mrs. Kensington (Mimi Rogers).

Myers also plays the pale, bald, cat-loving Dr. Evil. In the prologue, Evil fails to assassinate Powers and escapes by cryogenically freezing and launching himself into space via a rocket disguised as a giant Bob's Big Boy statue. Powers agrees to be frozen for the day when Evil returns, and he's revived three decades later and teamed with sultry Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), the daughter of his now-retired comrade.

The film has a seemingly endless storehouse of jokes about the Ian Fleming-like milieu -- from the heroes' droll superior, Basil Exposition (Michael York), to Evil's sexpot companion, Alotta Fagina (Fabiana Udenio), whose name makes everyone giggle. Cars, clothes, language, history, inflation, sex, crime -- Powers and Evil have a lot of catching up to do, and there are many priceless moments.

Contributing to the peppy pacing are several short interludes that are dead ringers for '60s pop-music television shows, with Powers fronting a band and playing the teen idol. While cockeyed Evil learns that $1 million is too little a ransom to demand for not destroying the world and gets to know his airhead son (Seth Green), cloned by his allies in his absence, Powers learns through Vanessa that "shagging" all the time with many partners and without protection is now irresponsible.

Robert Wagner provides solid backup as Evil's menacing colleague, while Burt Bacharach, Carrie Fisher and Tom Arnold appear in spirited cameos.

A big "far out, man" to the filmmakers, including production designer Cynthia Charette, costume designer Deena Appel and cinematographer Peter Deming ("Lost Highway"). The soundtrack is also a winner, with great tunes including Susanna Hoffs' version of "The Look of Love" and "BBC" by Ming Tea.

AUSTIN POWERS:

INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY

New Line Cinema

in association with Capella International/KC Medien

A Moving Pictures/Eric's Boy production

Director Jay Roach

Writer Mike Myers

Producers Suzanne Todd, Demi Moore,

Jennifer Todd, Mike Myers

Executive producers Eric McLeod,

Claire Rudnick Polstein

Director of photography Peter Deming

Production designer Cynthia Charette

Editor Debra Neil-Fisher

Costume designer Deena Appel

Music George S. Clinton

Casting John Papsidera

Color/stereo

Cast:

Austin Powers/Dr. Evil Mike Myers

Vanessa Kensington Elizabeth Hurley

Basil Exposition Michael York

Mrs. Kensington Mimi Rogers

Number Two Robert Wagner

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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