Out of all the James Bond style spoofs out there, none have managed to make as big of a cultural impact as the Austin Powers Series. There are few people you’ll meet who have never heard of this shagadelic spy, and it’s no wonder! The character Mike Myers progressively molds onscreen has become something of an enigma. He is surreal, eccentric, and is a perfect embellished representation of the 1960’s (did I mention how groovy he is baby?).
The Austin Powers series follows the adventures of Austin Powers (Mike Myers), an international spy who loves nothing more than wearing bizarre clothing and making love (or how he loves to put it, shagging). With the help of an attractive sidekick, Austin Powers always foils the plots of the James Bond style villain Dr. Evil (also Mike Myers). Along the way we come across many wacky characters, typical spy movie tropes, and self aware humor.
The Austin Powers series has always turned out an array of strange, unusual, and beyond over the top characters in its films. I usually can’t recall every single character from a film, but with Austin Powers they make it so easy because all the characters are memorable. This is in part due to the many wacky personas Mike Myers embodies for these films. Austin, Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard, and Goldmember are all their own unique personalities that we the audience come to love.
The humor of Austin Powers has always been a mixed bag of ups and downs for me. I like the awkward sexual advances Austin is always making towards women, those always get a good laugh. The self aware style of humor has always been my favorite, as the film seems to enjoy mocking itself for how convoluted it is. There is even a seen where they directly address the audience, telling us not to worry about the confusing time line and just enjoy the film.
The biggest issue with the series has to do with the excruciatingly lowbrow humor that makes its way into the films. This usually comes in the form of jokes about body parts, farting, and pooping. All common jokes you usually see in lesser comedy films. I think it’s pretty understandable for people to hate these kinds of jokes, however I think it all boils down to a matter of personal taste. I’m not a huge fan of poop jokes and such, but I know that there’s plenty of people who love that sort of thing, and that’s okay too.
I feel Austin Powers serves as a great example of Mike Myers’s strengths and weaknesses as an actor. He has a real knack for embodying a character, as we see numerous times in just Austin Powers alone. His accents, personas, and general goofiness are very distinguishable between characters.
I think Mike Myers’s biggest weakness can be his humor, as it often times doesn’t very well stand on its own. There will be scenes where the joke has obviously gone on for way too long, yet he still tries carrying it out for as long as possible. Over time, his characters, without proper support from other talented actors and actresses (like Seth Green or Beyonce), become less funny. They are like a comedian whose jokes have run dry but he still keeps going in the hope you’ll start laughing again. This is less obvious in his better works (like Wayne’s World), but is very painfully obvious in his worst films (like Cat in the Hat or The Love Guru).
By the time the third film (Austin Powers in Goldmember) was released, the series began to get noticeably tiresome and worn out. It seemed as though the magic that made International Man of Mystery was starting to fade away. That isn’t to say Goldmember is no good, because it has a lot of fun moments. There was just a noticeable drop in the quality of the writing that is very hard to ignore.
So even with my less than kind criticisms of the series, I still think Austin Powers is a worthwhile series to watch. There are many memorable characters and scenes, some good running jokes, and an actor who somehow created the most bizarre comedy film protagonist ever. For those who love lowbrow humor and jokes that go on for way, way too long, Austin Powers should be the perfect film.
The Verdict: B-