Dir. by Jay Roach - 1 hr. 29 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
First, I acknowledge there is no way that anyone does, nor should care what I think about any of the "Austin Powers" movies. For the record, I thought there were a number of funny bits, and it's been long enough since I'd seen it that the overexposure the franchise suffered from has eased a bit, and that it's popularity at the time makes sense - a bright, colorful, exuberant comedy against the somewhat monochromatic and dour nineties makes for a out-of-left-field hit. And that even when Elizabeth Hurley isn't very good at acting, she's still a lot of fun to look at.
Part of the reason why no one would or should care about what anyone (I'm not singling myself out here) has to say about this film is that it was, at one point, inescapable. Now, it's a few movies back on the list of giant comedies that every dolt quoted and ruined , to the point where I'm not even sure that people talk about Austin Powers any more. Even Mike Myers has had another franchise ("Shrek") come and go since the three "Austin Powers" films. You'd have to admit that both "Anchorman" and "Borat" have come and gone, displacing all the "yeah, baby" interjections with other non sequiturs. At this point in time, though, if you weren't around for these movies, you might not have any awareness of them, and certainly not as the cultural phenomenons that they were.
That leaves the first "Powers" in an odd spot; most people who have seen it are sick of it, and those who haven't might as well be confronted with a weird indie film that no one wants to talk about. I remember reading an interview with Outkast's Big Boi, talking about how weird it was that during the 1980's, you couldn't avoid Billy Ocean, but in the 2000's, he didn't exist any more. It's that kind of phenomenon, where something goes from ubiquity to being in a weird blind spot that no one will acknowledge any more.
To be certain, the reputation of this film suffered at the hands of a pair of increasingly awful sequels that rode the comedic formulas from this film directly into the ground. But this film is still okay. There's a kind of comfort that comes from watching "Austin Powers," like listening to a radio hit from the past, and finding that you still know all the words years later. There are no surprises, but it's comfort food, for when you don't want to be challenged. It probably sucks to reduce a creative work to that, but if you weren't paying attention for the five years the film series comprised, you can't fathom how much this character was jammed down everyone's throats. The series went from some weird film by an SNL refugee that blew up to something that companies were lining up to use to sell whatever crap they wanted to sell. That journey, the one from outlier to corporate shill, that's the story that's most interesting about the character, especially with the benefit of not having to live contemporaneously with these films and their surrounding hype anymore.
3 / 5 - TV (HD)