Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Some comedies operate with scalpel-like sharpness, employing incisive quips, clever word-play, and rapid fire repartee. Screwball comedies like His Girl Friday, for instance.

This is not one of those films.

Instead, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery takes what we might call the jackhammer approach to humour: it uses blunt force and repetition to extort laughs out of the audience. The jokes are invariably the broadest, most blatant and least sophisticated kind possible, but they are pounded and pounded and pounded until they break through the Mediocrity Barrier and somehow become funny. It is, in its own way, really rather clever.

Swinging sixties spy Austin Powers thwarts the latest scheme of his nemesis, Dr Evil, but the nefarious one cryogenically freezes himself and is launched into space for 30 years. Powers also gets frozen, waking up in a very different time to the one he left behind.

Like I said above, none of what follows is exactly high brow, but the film commits so wholeheartedly to its schoolboy jokes, scatalogical references and broad parody that I find it has a kind of manic charm.

It probably also helps the film that the first time I saw it was at the last film of a cinema dusk til dawn session. You'll laugh at almost anything at 3am when you haven't had any sleep.  But even on a re-watch while well-rested, I had fun.

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