Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery Turns 20

Yeah baby, yeah!

Yes, Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery is now twenty years old. Originally a parody James Bond, the film became a hit, launching two highly-earning sequels. It also made Mike Myers a film superstar.

In 1967, superspy Austin Powers tries and fails to capture Dr. Evil, who blasts off into space. Powers has himself frozen until his nemesis returns. Thirty years later, the Ministry of Defence learns Dr. Evil has come back to Earth. They revive Austin from cryogenic freezing and assign him to the case.


Austin Powers

As Austin finds out, the nineties are far different from the swinging sixties. Free love is dead, and the Cold War is long over. He teams up with Vanessa Kensington, who is the daughter of his former coworker. Unlike her mother, Vanessa is repulsed by Austin’s behaviour and finds it difficult to work with him. Over time, a romance forms between the two of them.

Meanwhile, Dr. Evil plots a world domination scheme. Despite his empire becoming legit, he has no interest in honest business, but he has trouble coming up with a new idea. Dr. Evil’s frustrated with most of his ideas having already been done. Instead, he decides to hijack a nuclear weapon and hold the world hostage. All the while, he’s trying to be a father to his son Scott, whose childhood he missed out on.

Dr. Evil Austin Powers

Mike Myers delivers a tour-de-force performance. Austin Powers is hilarious, witty and utterly clueless. Although not being handsome, the character has an irresistible appeal to women, but he has trouble coping with the modern age. Nor does he understand that free love is a thing of the past. Yet his tangles with fembots and habit of sleepwalking in the nude are a riot to watch.

As Dr. Evil, Myers is hilarious as a wonderfully inept villain. Written as a spoof of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, he is hellbent on world domination, but he can’t seem to come up with a great plan. Nor does he understand the concepts of money and inflation. He tends to reject his son’s logical ideas, because he doesn’t consider him evil enough to be taken seriously. Ironically, these ideas would be far more successful than Dr. Evil’s plots.

Elizabeth Hurley Austin Powers

Elizabeth Hurley holds her own as Vanessa, who plays the straight man to Myers’ antics. Her banter with Austin is one of the film’s highlights. This is especially clear in the airplane scene, during which Austin tries and fails to sleep with Vanessa. She responds by vowing they’ll never have sex- even if the fate of the human race depends on it.

As the plot progresses, the two characters grow closer and form a relationship. It’s quite touching to see these opposites develop an attraction. Sadly, the leading ladies in the sequels don’t have the same chemistry with Myers.

The supporting cast is spot on in their roles. Michael York gives a solid turn as Basil Exposition, whose sole purpose is to fill in Austin on the plot. Lily Tomlin is a delight as Frau Farbissina, who tends to scream in almost every scene she’s in. Robert Wagner’s Number Two is the perfect Smithers to Dr. Evil’s Mr. Burns. Seth Green portrays Scott has a put-upon Gen X teenager who resists Dr. Evil’s attempts to bond with him.

There are also several hilarious cameos in the film. Will Ferrell is a riot as henchman Mustafa, who Dr. Evil has a hard time killing off. Mimi Rogers has a brief appearance as Austin’s former partner Mrs. Kensington. The late Carrie Fisher has a funny cameo as a therapist, who tries to counsel Dr. Evil and Scott. Her attempts to help father and son bond result in a long, disturbing monologue about Dr. Evil’s childhood.

Overall, International Man Of Mystery is one of the funniest spy spoofs ever. Austin Powers was meant to be a Bond farce, but it took on a life of its own. Mike Myers’ comedic genius is a delight to watch, and it makes one wish we saw more of him on the big screen. Hurley is in fine form as Austin’s best love interest of the franchise. When it comes to movies, this sort of thing is definitely my bag.

Very groovy, baby.

Jonathan Bruce
Jonathan Bruce
I am an English teacher by day and a freelance writer at night. Specialities include news, reviews, opinion and commentary articles. When I'm not teaching, I participate in theatre, building sets and working stage crew as a hobby. I also enjoy reading and having an occasional glass of Scotch.