Deep inside many of us is a geeky yet primal desire to be totally immersed in our favorite celluloid dream world, but it's significantly less enjoyable to watch other people indulge their fantasies. Therein lies the problem with Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery, Mike Myers' curious big-budget tribute to the swinging '60s spy epics. The movie's inspiration is less James Bond than the 1967 flick Casino Royale, itself a self-indulgent spoof of the Bond films. Myers' English-accented title role is basically a variation on Casino Royale's nebbishy Peter Sellers and Woody Allen characters. (Myers also plays the Goldfinger-esque Dr. Evil.) Myers obviously adores this loopy genre, and his protruding, tartar-encrusted prosthetic overbite seems to manifest his glee. But Casino Royale was hardly a comic masterpiece, and Austin Powers does little to transcend the original movie's excess. Weighted with an unimaginative storyline (Powers is thawed from 30-year cryogenic storage along with his arch-nemesis, and they basically pick up where they left off) and predictable situations (the sex-crazed spy must come to terms with puritan '90s ethics), the audience begins to feel left out of the fun, as though it's listening in on a private joke among strangers. Give Austin Powers credit for being less tedious than it could have been; it gets quite a bit of mileage out of numerous references to bad British oral hygiene and Burt Bacharach, and its Carnaby Street psychedelia is energetic, finely detailed, and amusing. It helps that Myers has Powers down pat. Still, the need to parody Casino Royale could have been taken care of in an eight-minute TV skit; instead, we're given nearly 90 minutes of someone else's party.
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