Twenty years ago this week, "Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery" was released and the world became a much groovier place, man. Comedian and co-host of the worlds only Mike Myers centric podcast, Mike Check, Cameron James is here to investigate why we still find him so shagadelic.
By
Cameron James

2 May 2017 - 1:26 PM  UPDATED 2 May 2017 - 1:26 PM

To quote four other famously suited Brits, The Beatles - “It was 20 years ago today, Austin Powers told the world “Oh behave!””. OK, that's maybe more of a paraphrase, but the fact remains it's been 20 years since the International Man Of Mystery swung onto our screens, and after all this time the Groovy One is still beloved and regularly quoted across culture, from Comedy Bang Bang to your Dad. But why, baby?

 

It's hard to believe 20 years have passed since our first introduction to Canadian comic Mike Myers' now iconic character, Austin Powers - mischevious Id, superspy, ladies man and idiot all wrapped up in a crushed velvet suit. 20 years since he first asked the world “Do I make you horny?”, and the world answered, yes. Yes, you do. But the shagadelic road to success was a rocky one, with groovy ups, and extreme downs. To directly quote The Beatles again - “He's been going in and out of style, but baby, he's guaranteed to raise a bloody smile, man”.

 

For starters, the movie tested badly with audiences. In Hollywood, anything that scores below 70 in test screenings is considered a disaster. Austin Powers got a 55. This week in 1997, it looked as if Austin Powers was destined to be a Swing and a miss for Mike Myers.

 

And while this might seem crazy to us in a post-Austin world, in 1997 it's easy to see why a parody of 1960's Bond movies, and long forgotten TV series like The Monkees and Jason King filled with cheap set design and deliberately lame jokes might have flown over some heads. The movie's most intensely choreographed setpiece involves a hairy chested naked man standing in front of various precariously placed phallic items to cover his junk. Put simply, the world wasn't ready.

 

The movie came out to moderate, cult success, and could have just as easily disappeared altogether. But something happened. That year a new and exciting piece of cutting edge technology emerged: Digital Video Disc, or *air quotes*  “DVD”. This *air quotes* “DVD” release of Austin Powers defrosted Myers' film for the public, and the movie went on to become a huge home video hit spawning two sequels – one of them an incredible comedy classic, the other, Goldmember – and becoming one of the most beloved pop cultural icons of our time.

 

But after 20 years, why does Austin Powers still make us horny? And if not horny, at least randy?

 

Perhaps it's because two decades is only our recent past, but it feels a lot longer ago. 1997 was a simpler time. A time when comedy was allowed to be stupid and over-the-top, and exist only for the sake of making us laugh. In the months after Austin Powers was released, Princess Diana passed away, the first Harry Potter book was published, Internet Explorer 4 was released, and Titanic destroyed the box office and changed cinema forever. After 1997, the world was different. When we look back at Austin Powers we remember a time when we could laugh, a time when silliness reigned supreme, a time before comedy and tragedy were so deeply entwined.

 

Another theory to it's ongoing appeal is the catchphrases.

  

 

 

 

I mean, come on. They're like pop songs. Everyone knows the words, and everyone can do an impression. Sure, most people can only do a bad impression, but the fact remains that this character is so beloved and so endlessly quoted because he is a character that oozes mojo (a-thank you). There's nothing dark or cynical about Austin, he's a joyful imp spreading horniness through the world. Director Jay Roach has described Austin not as a fish out of water, but as a “fish who brings his own water with him”.

 

It's for this reason that everyone has a bad impression of Austin Powers, and why even the worst ones are still sort of funny: because Austin IS pure joy. He's all of us after a few wines, or when we've just heard our favourite groovy song, man. Austin Powers is you at your most outrageous, just before you become unbearable.

 

As one of the world's most premiere Mike Myers experts with my podcast Mike Check, I have devoured every piece of Powers content available with a voracious journalistic appetite. But today, on the 20th Anniversary, I decided to turn my gaze to the people. I turned to the fans. I searched “Austin Powers Impression” on YouTube, and I watched all of these videos. Are they awful? Most of them, yes. Are they stupid? Undoubtedly. But do they make me horny? Of course. Because Mike Myers has made millions of us happy with this crazy, shagadelic, Austin Powers guy, and baby, there's nothing hornier than that.

 

 


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