GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 16 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence, Language, and brief Suggestive Content

Directed by: James Gunn

Written by: James Gunn

(based on the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY comics by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning)

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone & Kurt Russell

Nearly three years after GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY became a surprise hit and smashed box office records, we finally have a sequel. Since director/writer James Gunn helmed Marvel’s first awesome space opera, he returned for this sequel and is already in talks for a third film. Like most sequels, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 is a step down from its predecessor. That’s not to say that this film is one of the worst Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, because AGE OF ULTRON, IRON MAN 2, and THE INCREDIBLE HULK still remain below it. GUARDIANS VOL. 2 is a lot like THOR: THE DARK WORLD in that it’s fun, has great moments and positive qualities, but is not nearly as awesome as it should be.

After slaying a giant power-sucking parasite, the Guardians of the Galaxy (Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Baby Groot) botch a mission by rudely insulting a proud race of gold-skinned aliens. As a result, the Guardians find themselves with a bounty on their head and that attracts the attention of space-pirates. Things are further complicated when Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and the gang run across mysterious stranger Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter’s long-lost father. This leads to lots of wacky intergalactic action, humorous antics, secrets being revealed, and (as you might have assumed from the title) another rockin’ soundtrack.

As the titular Guardians (of the Galaxy), Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Batista blend seamlessly back into their characters, while Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provide voices. This second installment builds upon the already established chemistry of these characters and lets them do what they do best. Drax still gets major laughs, while Rocket is still the fan favorite rodent asshole. Meanwhile, Baby Groot is both hilarious and adorable at the same time. However, the developing relationship between Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord and Zoe Saldana’s Gamora feels a bit half-assed this time around. Michael Rooker’s space-pirate Yondu and Karen Gillan’s revenge-driven Nebula get more time to shine here and their solid subplots genuinely surprised me.

The film’s new additions, mainly Kurt Russell’s Ego and his insect-like companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff) are both interesting enough. Russell’s natural charisma aids his mysterious character and Klementieff’s Mantis is like a cute little kid in a bug alien’s body. I don’t want to say much about this film’s main antagonist, for fear of spoilers. I will say that I absolutely loved the idea behind this baddie and was willing to forgive a clichéd motivation because of that. It’s also worth noting that the gold-skinned Sovereign aliens and their High Priestess provide great comic relief. Also, a bored-looking Sylvester Stallone appears in a glorified cameo that was shamelessly included as set-up for future Marvel films (something that is a constant detriment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2’s main problems stem from tedious pacing and sloppy writing. There are arguably too many storylines at play here and, as a result, the movie noticeably feels unfocused. The first third of the film has pacing issues in that I was wondering where things were heading and wasn’t necessarily having fun. There’s a long-winded exposition sequence that’s only tolerable because of Kurt Russell’s charm and nothing else. The film noticeably picks up during its second act and has a very fun final third. Still, it takes a while to recover from the glacial movement and many pointless moments of the first act.

The unfocused approach and all-over-the-place pacing further dilute some would-be emotional scenes during the final act. Certain revelations and plot developments would have made more of a lasting impact, if it hadn’t been for the messy nature of this sequel’s storytelling. That being said, there are still plenty of laughs, action, and great scenes to be had. The opening credit sequence is simultaneously funny, creative and cool. Most of the humor works and the running jokes are sure to get audiences cracking up, especially a couple that are set up far in advance. The film’s set pieces are memorable, with major highlight being a scene from the original film upped to a crazy degree (you’ll know it, when you see it).

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 is a good Marvel movie that could have been a great Marvel movie, if the pacing weren’t slow in the beginning and (too many) storylines weren’t all over the place. I had fun while watching this movie and it had many positive qualities. Certain scenes are great. I like that the film attempted some surprisingly emotional moments, even if they weren’t nearly as powerful as they probably should have been. I also love the villain because the concept is so damn creative and cool. Yet, the more I think about this sequel, the less I like it. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 doesn’t come close to hitting the highs of its predecessor, but remains fun (enough) sci-fi entertainment nonetheless.

Grade: B

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for Rude Humor and some Action

legobatman-poster

Directed by: Chris McKay

Written by: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern & John Whittington

Voices of: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Mariah Carey, Jenny Slate, Susan Bennett, Billy Dee Williams, Hector Elizondo, Conan O’Brien, Jason Mantzoukas, Doug Benson, Zoe Kravitz, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Adam DeVine, Eddie Izzard & Seth Green

The first of three new LEGO movies, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is a spin-off for the popular DC superhero from 2014’s surprisingly awesome THE LEGO MOVIE. Will Arnett has returned to reprise the vocal work for Lego Batman/Bruce Wayne and this film is set entirely within the Lego DC Universe. Filled to the brim with comic book references and call-backs to other movies, LEGO BATMAN never takes itself seriously at all and yet still manages to throw in a touching message about family and friends. Though not as great as its LEGO predecessor, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is the best DC Comics movie to hit nationwide theatrical release in years. This is a delight for parents, teenagers, and Batman fans who enjoy a good laugh.

legobatman-1

In Lego Gotham City, orphan-turned-superhero Batman (Will Arnett) enjoys wearing black, playing loud music and fighting crime. He’s always saving the day, but has never let anybody else into his life…other than faithful butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). After Batman foils the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) yet again and hurts the evil clown’s feelings, the villain hatches an ingenious scheme for revenge. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) has stepped into her dad’s shoes as chief of police and has enacted a new “it takes a village, not a Batman” approach to fighting crime. Also, Batman has taken young boywonder Robin under his reluctant parental wing. The real challenge Batman has to face though…is overcoming his fears about family.

legobatman-2

Will Arnett’s Batman was easily one of the funniest parts of THE LEGO MOVIE and he brings everything that fans loved about that character into a feature-length running time. Though this film has a handful of slow moments that drag, Arnett’s comedic timing and purposely brooding voice frequently rescue the story from being “too much of a good thing.” The rest of the voice cast is stellar as well, with Michael Cera delivering some of the biggest laughs as lively, no-pants-wearing Robin. Tons of Batman’s rogue gallery make appearances too, including a lot of C-grade baddies that provide giggles from their mere cameos. My two favorite side villains were Catwoman (who’s constantly saying “mew mew”) and Bane (who’s adopted the strange, but awesome-sounding voice from 2012’s THE DARK KNIGHT RISES). Zach Galifianakis also shines in the most sensitive portrayal of the Joker that you’ve ever seen, making for an evil supervillain that throws tantrums like a depressed ex-girlfriend.

legobatman-3

It should come as no surprise that THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is chock-full of movie, TV and comic book references. There are so many jokes within the first five minutes that it seems impossible to catch them all in one viewing. From signs that cheering citizens are holding to bits of dialogue that directly tie into certain films to full-blown footage used from every big-screen Batman in history, there are tons of laughs and in-cannon material here to satisfy diehard Batman fans. The film also throws tons of references towards DC comics in general, featuring cameos from Justice League members and familiar places from Superman’s stories. Even still, the references don’t stop there because there are unexpected non-cannon characters that have a big part to play in the proceedings. I won’t go into detail, but I was grinning ear to ear for a majority of the action-packed climax.

legobatman-4

LEGO BATMAN MOVIE’s message isn’t exactly original, but seems perfectly suited to the nature of Batman’s character and how we’ve seen this character explored in past versions of the material. The film’s lively visuals explode off the screen, looking like stop-motion even though they are actually the result of highly-detailed computer animation. As clever, entertaining and downright fun as LEGO BATMAN is, the plot encounters a few dull stretches. These mainly come in the second act, where we need to see certain things develop. In writing my summary of this film’s story, it struck me that LEGO BATMAN juggles four different subplots and tries to bring them together as a cohesive whole. The script does a solid job of this for the most part, but occasionally meanders as it brings these storylines together. Still, the pay-off, countless references, sheer entertainment value, and never-ending sense of humor are all well-worth the price of admission.

legobatman-5

If you’re a fan of 2014’s THE LEGO MOVIE or any incarnation of Batman, then THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is a must-see! I imagine that DC Comics fans will have a field day with the sheer amount of references, tie-ins, and clever writing; all while kids are having a blast watching Lego Batman run around on the screen. I saw LEGO BATMAN in a sold-out movie theater that was filled with families and an apparent birthday party going on the front two rows. At no point, during any minute of the running time, did a child begin crying or a bratty kid act out in any way. That’s almost unheard of, at least for me. Everybody was glued to the screen and that’s a major feat for any family film. Though the pacing isn’t perfect, but THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is a ton of fun! Sometimes, that’s all you need!

Grade: B+

HOLIDAYS (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Holidays poster

Directed by: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith & Scott Stewart

Written by: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith & Scott Stewart

Starring: Madeleine Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, Rick Peters, Ruth Bradley, Peter Campion, Ava Acres, Petra Wright, Sophie Traub, Jocelin Donahue, Michael Gross, Ashley Greene, Harley Quinn Smith, Seth Green, Clare Grant, Lorenza Izzo & Andrew Bowen

It seems like horror anthologies are becoming more frequent these days. We’ve had two massive horror anthologies revolving around the alphabet (THE ABC’S OF DEATH series), cursed video tapes (the V/H/S trilogy), and short stories around a single holiday (A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY, TALES OF HALLOWEEN). The premise for HOLIDAYS is exactly what the title suggests: various directors took on a major holiday and based a short horror film around that celebration. This ingenious concept sounds like it would open the floor to limitless possibilities, but only a few creative ideas actually make it to the surface in this mixed bag anthology.

1. V Day

VALENTINE’S DAY: We kick off in February with Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. Singles Awareness Day). This brief, to-the-point short follows a teenage swimmer who’s relentlessly picked on by the rest of her team. However, the coach shows this bullied outcast a bit of kindness by giving her a Valentine’s Day card, which serves as an inspiration for something violent. This segment’s stylistic visuals elevate it slightly above the predictable plot. While a gruesome punch line makes this short worth watching, I felt the 10-minute segment was okay. Nothing more, nothing less. B-

2. SP Day

ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Surprisingly, there are no drunken shenanigans or leprechauns to be found in this March 17th story. Director/writer Gary Shore (DRACULA UNTOLD) opts for a bit of Irish folklore instead. A teacher, who desperately wants a child, becomes mysteriously pregnant…and her baby might not be human. While this story’s initial set-up promised some freakish body horror, the execution was deliberately wacky. I have no problem with horror-comedies, but these jokes and absurd visuals seem weird for the sake of being weird. The cringe-inducingly awkward finale cemented this as second-worst segment in the film. D-

3. Easter

EASTER: This seems like the most forgivable holiday to screw up. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of potential for a creepy Easter tale. However, director/writer Nicholas McCarthy had something truly frightening in mind when he penned this short. A little girl finds herself scared by the concept of both the Easter Bunny and Jesus. Her fears come to life when she gets a glass of water…right as the Easter Bunny arrives at her home. This segment is genuinely freaky and had a legitimately effective jump scare. While the ending seems familiar, I really dug the hellish nature of this second-best holiday! B+

4. M Day

MOTHER’S DAY: And the title of worst segment goes to…this crapfest. A young woman finds herself pregnant every time she has sex (even when extreme protective measures are taken) and has gone through countless abortions as a result. Her latest pregnancy takes her to a creepy retreat where the women are less than enthusiastic that one among their ranks wishes to get rid of her unborn child. What follow is a slow, tedious crawl to a finish line that seems laughably bad. This segment slightly resembles ST. PATRICK’S DAY, but doesn’t even give us a brief glimmer of potential in its opening. Awful. F

5. F Day

FATHER’S DAY: We jump from the film’s worst segment straight to the best holiday of the bunch. A young woman receives an audio tape from her long-dead father. Using this long-lost sound recording, she retraces the steps of where her father disappeared. Director/writer Anthony Scott Burns builds serious suspense with very little at his disposal, as this short mainly consists of long shots of this woman walking through a spooky location with audio that becomes more disturbing as it continues to play. It’s enough to send a few chills up your spine and it certainly did so for me. Even though the ending is a tad rushed, this short still stands head and shoulders above the rest of this anthology! A-

6. Halloween

HALLOWEEN: Of all the holidays in this anthology, you’d probably think that Halloween would be the easiest segment to create. Too bad that Kevin Smith doesn’t do anything remotely Halloween related (all we get are a few decorations, a bag of candy, and nothing else) with his short and instead decides to whip out an overly crude torture-porn sequence. Three girls decide to get revenge on their abusive pimp through some grisly means. This feels like Kevin Smith watched bits of A SERBIAN FILM and SAW and thought to himself “Hey, I can do that, but with my patented quirky sense of humor!” It simply doesn’t work in a five-minute short that’s supposed to be centered around Halloween. This wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but still seems obnoxious and forced. D+

7. Christmas

CHRISTMAS: This potentially great segment is short-ended by an underdeveloped conclusion. A desperate father picks up a virtual reality headset for his child’s Christmas present and gets more than he bargained for. This short has its moments and I did like where things seemed to be heading in the finale, but the conclusion is so rushed and stinted that it cut off any momentum that this story had going for it. At least, Seth Green seems to be having fun as the father. C

8. New Years Eve

NEW YEAR’S EVE: A serial killer, who bases his murders around various holidays, picks up a potential new victim on New Year’s Eve. However, things are more complicated than they appear. From that synopsis alone, you probably have a good idea about where this short is heading. The plot basically gives itself up within the first minute. It’s still a lot of fun to watch though, as this segment’s humor really worked and a couple of solid gore gags make their way into the mix too. It’s nice to see the uneven HOLIDAYS end on a high note. B

9. Overall

HOLIDAYS reminds me a lot of the first ABC’S OF DEATH. The premise seems to be brimming with creativity, but half of the filmmakers don’t seem interested in delivering something scary or original. As a result, this horror-anthology is the perfect example of a mixed bag. Half of the segments are good and the other half fall flat. It’s almost worth recommending the film for FATHER’S DAY and EASTER by themselves. NEW YEAR’S EVE and VALENTINE’S DAY are fun, but nothing special. CHRISTMAS feels like it could have been one of the best segments, if it weren’t for the lackluster ending. HALLOWEEN feels like another Kevin Smith mistake as he tries to navigate his way through the horror-comedy genre. ST. PATRICK’S DAY and MOTHER’S DAY are inexcusably bad. If you’re in the mood for a horror-anthology and have completely run out of options, then you might want to check this out on Netflix or cable. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

Grade: C

AUSTIN POWERS: GOLDMEMBER (2002)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sexual Innuendo, Crude Humor and Language

APowers3 poster

Directed by: Jay Roach

Written by: Mike Myers & Michael McCullers

Starring: Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles, Michael York, Michael Caine, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Verne Troyer, Mindy Sterling & Fred Savage

AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY received lukewarm reception in its theatrical release and became a quick cult hit on home video. A couple of years later, THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME came out to delight many fans of the groovy swinging spy from the 60’s. After the hit of that sequel, it took three years for GOLDMEMBER to come out in the summer of 2002. Unfortunately, this is a lackluster installment to say the least. Jokes that were funny in the first two have gotten stale in this third outing. It almost seems like success got to the heads of Mike Myers, Michael McCullers and Jay Roach. A cameo loaded opening full of Oscar winners and pop stars is a sign that this entry had far more of a budget this time around. That’s apparent in many areas, but more money doesn’t necessarily make for a better movie. A majority of GOLDMEMBER either comes as bland or forced.

MCDAUPO EC030

Austin Powers has finally apprehended Dr. Evil and tiny clone Mini-Me. However, Austin faces a threat from the past in the form of a 70’s disco-dancing Dutch madman by the name of Goldmember. This lunatic has kidnapped Austin’s neglectful father. It’s up to the shaggadelic spy and a newly found afro-touting sidekick Foxxy Cleopatra to take down Goldmember, save Austin’s dad, and stop another ridiculous plan from Dr. Evil. What happened to Felicity Shagwell of the last film? Did she go back to the past? Was she actually a Fembot? Is it possible that Heather Graham wasn’t contractually obligated to appear briefly in a third film to close off her romance with Mike Myers? All of these could be a possibility, but the real answer is never given to the audience. This is an early plot hole that’s a sign of some seriously lazy writing (even Vanessa got a good send off in SPY WHO SHAGGED ME).

MSDAUPO EC047

GOLDMEMBER may be a weak ending to the impromptu AUSTIN POWERS trilogy (did anybody seriously expect this to become a three-film series), but it’s the slickest in cinematography. The make-up on Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard, and Goldmember looks good. The film does obviously spoof more 007 flicks (GOLDFINGER for example), but more references to other movies (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in a specific scene) and pop culture (a Britney Spears cameo and rap music video in the middle of a jail scene). These latter bits aren’t very funny and come off as awkward. Also unneeded are flashbacks of young Austin and Dr. Evil. Michael Caine is a welcome addition as Austin’s deadbeat father, but he’s essentially wasted for a majority of the flick. Also Scotty and Mini-Me are given story arcs, but neither are as hilarious as the material in the previous films.

MCDAUPO EC018

Mike Myers plays four different characters this time around. Of course, he’s Austin Powers and Dr. Evil. He also returns as Fat Bastard and the newly added Goldmember. Goldmember is also a wasted villain too. This baddie’s over-the-top Dutch accent, penchant for commenting on how tight people are, lack of genitalia, and snacks of pancakes with cigarettes come off as completely lame. None of his jokes are very funny and it’s clear that Mike Myers was going into a bad spot of his comedic abilities (this was only a year before the disastrous CAT IN THE HAT).  Most of the other jokes (including returning bits from the previous entries) are dusty this time around. A more blatant example is the dirty name of a sexy woman. In the first two films it was Ivanna Humpalot or Alotta Fagina. This time around the joke has been regulated to the easy cheap Fook Mi and Fook Yu. It’s insulting how much it appears that everyone phoned it in both acting and writing. One saving grace comes in a solid set of three scenes in Japan that I was laughing hysterically at. If everything had been up to the par of those 15 minutes, than GOLDMEMBER would be a solid conclusion to an entertaining trilogy of spy-comedies. Also, Beyoncé Knowles isn’t much of a love interest. She lacks the charm of both Elizabeth Hurley and Heather Graham.

MCDAUPO EC025

An overly convoluted script is just one of the many things that GOLDMEMBER suffers from. Did we really need an intricate mythology to how Dr. Evil and Austin Powers met? There are a couple of really funny moments (my favorite part being three scenes in a row in Japan), but they are few and far between. Most of the humor is far too forced. The entire film is disappointing and the end result is a purely middle-of-the-road experience.

Grade: C

AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME (1999)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sexual Innuendo and Crude Humor

APowers2 poster

Directed by: Jay Roach

Written by: Mike Myers & Michael McCullers

Starring: Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Rob Lowe, Mindy Sterling, Seth Green, Verne Troyer, Elizabeth Hurley & Will Ferrell

Seeing as AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY gained a huge amount of success on home video, an unexpected sequel was announced as a summer blockbuster in 1999. Whereas the first film was definitely a product of its times and has held substantial ground upon rewatch, I can safely say this sequel nails everything the first one did with a little higher quality. Mike Myers was not flying solo in writing this script and the addition of a co-writer may have helped hone his creativity into something slightly funnier this time around. SPY WHO SHAGGED ME is a good time for fans of the first film and may even bring in a crowd that didn’t care too much for the original. This is a goofy James Bond spoof that gets even wilder and crazier the second time around.

MCDAUPO EC060

It has been two years since the events of the first film. Austin Powers and Vanessa’s marriage has come to an explosive end. Dr. Evil has returned to Earth with a brand spanking new invention: a time machine. Using this time machine, Evil travels back into 1969 and steals Austin’s mojo from his cryogenically frozen body, thus depleting the sex drive from the present Powers. Austin must travel back in time to stop a sinister plan involving a moon, a laser, and a clone about one-eighth Dr. Evil’s size (named Mini-Me). He also befriends fellow agent Felicity Shagwell and tries to retrieve his mojo.

MCDAUPO EC058

One of the main differences in quality this time around is that Austin Powers has been made into a far funnier character than he was in the original. I find the first POWERS film to be almost strictly Dr. Evil’s show. In this sequel, Austin Powers far outshines Dr. Evil. The Mini-Me storyline is one of the funniest things in the film (a fight scene near the end is hysterical), but Evil has also delivers plenty of lame jokes that fall flat. Speaking of jokes, some of the same set-ups are used from the first film and have much better punch lines upon being repeated. This is also stacking on top of lots of good funny and just as raunchy material (a scene involving suggestive shadows, comments on a spaceship that looks like a certain body part, etc.). It isn’t high art or the pinnacle of comedic genius, but it’s exactly what AUSTIN POWERS fans expect and want from a sequel that’s bigger and better.

MCDAUPO EC065

There is also more creativity. Specific 007 flicks are targeted (one sticking out is the ludicrous MOONRAKER) and Mike Myers is pulling triple duty as three separate characters. He’s doing Austin and Evil again, but also appears as a morbidly obese Scottish thug appropriately named Fat Bastard. Another detriment that needs to be mentioned is Scotty (Dr. Evil’s son and part of the funniest plot thread from the first film) taking backseat to Mini-Me. Though I don’t want to compare both plot threads, I feel the movie might have benefitted from the two being in equal balance or Scott having a more significant screen presence in this second installment. Also Rob Lowe is great as a young Number 2 (originally played by Robert Wagner)

MSDAUPO EC058

The problems with SPY WHO SHAGGED ME are the same problems in INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY. It’s definitely still a product of its times with plenty of 90’s references and other pop culture hints that have aged. Some jokes fall flat (especially a few scenes with Dr. Evil). However, SPY WHO SHAGGED ME is a hugely entertaining, purposely juvenile take on more ridiculous 007 flicks. It’s also a sequel that manages to be slightly better than the original in many ways, but the same faults keep it to the same pillar of amusing crude comedy that the first film was. If you liked the first AUSTIN POWERS, you’re bound to like this one.

Grade: B+

AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY (1997)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Nudity, Sex-Related Dialogue and Humor

APowers poster

Directed by: Jay Roach

Written by: Mike Myers

Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Michael York & Will Ferrell

AUSTIN POWERS is a movie that is so much a product of its time period that I was kind of worried to revisit it. A few years had passed from the success of WAYNE’S WORLD and semi-successful gross of WAYNE’S WORLD 2. Mike Myers was a far bigger name back then (slightly lower than Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey). Tons of cultural references are sprinkled throughout the script written by Myers. Therefore it’s far more enjoyable for someone who lived through the 90’s. In this day and age, the film holds up surprisingly well and plays like a dirtier-minded version of something in the same vein of THE NAKED GUN or HOT SHOTS.

MSDAUPO EC010

In 1967, Austin Powers (Mike Myers) is a groovy secret agent who’s very much into the hip Free Love environment. He’s constantly clashing with the diabolical Dr. Evil (Mike Myers in different make-up). After Evil freezes himself to commit crimes in the future, Austin Powers is cryogenically frozen as well. 1997 is the year that Dr. Evil returns and Austin Powers is forced back into action. As both Evil and Powers adjust to the three decades worth of change around them, Powers tries to stop Evil’s evil plan to destroy the world and also falls in love with his sexy partner Vanessa (Hurley).

MSDAUPO EC025

AUSTIN POWERS is filled to the brim with dirty jokes, potty humor and sex puns. To those offended by any of those things, this is the kind of the territory you automatically find yourself in a Mike Myers comedy. The main target of Myers’s script is 007 flicks. References to plenty of Bond movies are made and deliberate details are shifted from specific baddies to damn near identical dialogue. A couple of examples are the hat-wielding assassin Odd Job being changed into a shoe-wielding assassin Random Task and Dr. Evil stating “No, Mr. Powers. I expect them to die.” Silly moments also deliberately poke fun at the plot holes seen in that cheesy series. The mixed element of AUSTIN POWERS is that the title character can be annoying (kind of the joke in certain areas) and that Dr. Evil outshines him in every possible aspect. Evil’s relationship with his test-tube-born son (played wonderfully by Seth Green) is comedy gold.

MSDAUPO EC008

The bigger flaws come in a rather anti-climatic ending, although there are two follow-up films. If I had seen this in the theaters or on video during 1997, I would have been unsatisfied with an obvious ploy for a second film. At the time, it wouldn’t have even been a possibility to have seen a sequel either, because AUSTIN POWERS only found a following on video after so-so theatrical reception. Also, the relationship between Myers and Hurley comes off as unbelievably forced. All this being said, POWERS is still pretty frickin’ funny. Also the film is risqué for a PG-13 flick. If the MPAA had rated this now, it would have suffered cuts or the wrath of a light R rating.

MSDAUPO EC037

AUSTIN POWERS isn’t perfect. The title character can be annoying and the relationship is unconvincing. The movie is great where it counts and that’s in the laughs. Everything involving Dr. Evil is hilarious and I sort of wish this movie had been solely about this incompetent villain. The movie is a product of its time in the sense that Austin Powers is a character from the swinging 60’s. Both are aged in slightly embarrassing ways, but they’re also funny regardless. AUSTIN POWERS is a solid 90’s comedy that has a lot of rewatch value. The near future will tell if the sequels hold up just as well for me though…

Grade: B+

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑