Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery ★★★★½

A hilarious tribute to James Bond, the swinging British comedies of the late '60s, Peter Sellers, and its star's dad, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" is a comic gem. A crushed velvet combination of reverent parody, verbal cleverness, and self-effacing wit, the film boasts a pitch perfect leading man, memorable gags, and a deliciously infectious energy.

Revolving around Mike Meyers' unfortunately-toothed secret agent, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" follows its titular super spy on a journey from the 1960s to the 1990s thanks to some well-placed cryogenic technology. On the trail of the nefarious Dr. Evil, the titular super spy takes on culture shock and the bad guys during a quest to save the empire.

Myers' story takes elements from the Connery-era Bond films and stretches them to their goofiest without ever belittling them. Silliness crashes headlong into sexism and sexiness in a way that skewers the testosterone-drenched story points and character traits of mid-century spy films. It is both satire and celebration. A zippy self-awareness beats under the comic surface of the narrative, allowing moments of parody to coexist with a winky cleverness. It all forms a tightly meshed tapestry of cultural commentary and effectively uproarious comedy.

Director, Jay Roach, builds of film that emulates the motion pictures on which it is based and bursts with its own Carnaby street energy. The visual signature is "You Only Live Twice" gilded in "A Hard Day's Night" and "Dr. Strangelove." It is a colorful yet controlled mix, and Roach couples the ribald with the not-quite-restrained to thoroughly entertaining results.

This is Myers' show, however, and he brings to life a now-iconic character that is charmingly over-the-top with a memorable physical and vocal performance. As both Powers and Evil, he offers comic roles for the ages. His costars, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, and others, are also well-placed and add life to the shenanigans.

"Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" is a gleeful and vibrant send up of certain films of a certain era. The film is more than just parody, however, and it goes to impressive lengths to create its own stand-out characters and their own jubilant adventure. It is an enthusiastically enjoyable experience that is endlessly fun and impressively electric.

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