Nostalgia is a dangerous game. The media we consumed as young, uncultured urchins are no match for those of us with any semblance of a palette. As I lurch into my 20s with all the grace of an eagle diving straight into a slab of concrete, I cling to memories of old and the joy they gave me. There is no greater treat than returning to a classic of the younger years, or so I thought. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery puts that theory to the test, a Mike Myers led comedy that exacerbates itself with humorous titbits and clips worthy of YouTube binges, but feel clumsy and out of place in a narrative format.
The biggest draw for International Man of Mystery is that the spoof genre at the time was riding a wave of uncoordinated, surprising success. I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted a parody of the James Bond franchise doing so successfully, but it’s the lighting in a bottle moments I love to look back on. Sadly, there’s not much to reflect or revel in with this one, and as it turns out this Myers led piece doesn’t have the charm it once had. Perhaps I’ve just soured as I’ve gotten older, or maybe it’s because I’ve seen all the best bits in compilations on YouTube as a kid, but I always remember this and Goldmember being late-night hits in my early teen years.
It’s more than a slap dashed critique of the Bond genre and the films that it inspired, though, and there are some nice criticisms and jabs at Beatlemania, 60s hippie culture and the styles that plagued the era. Myers’ role as the titular character brings about a walking stereotype, one that feels intentional and important to the success of the film. Nobody could play the goofy teethed, bedazzled mojo holder any better than he does, caked with thick-rimmed glasses, a ruffled bob and an outfit with more lace than my shoes. It’s a good look, physical comedy has yet to die, and Myers’ enjoyable gags throughout prolong the inevitable death of slapstick, visual blink-and-you-miss-it humour. Crass complacency soon takes hold, there are only so many times these jokes can work, repetition may be the key to comedy, but it doesn’t do Myers and his co-star Elizabeth Hurley any favours here.
Certainly not worth risking your love of the film for, I entered Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery confident in its charisma, but left feeling wholly underwhelmed. Not poorly written, nor exceptional in anything it looks to do or achieve. It exists, but without veering to either side of good or bad. It is the very definition of mediocre, a film that contains an exceptional number of laughs, but there’s a tight limit on how much you’ll get out of each of these moments. Gradually, like most things in life, the laughter will slip away, leaving a rather blank slate, a void, with slots for where jokes should be placed.