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Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: Austin Powers vs Grosse Pointe Blank

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Today we’ve got a matchup between two movies that take different tracks toward mining comedy out of characters whose jobs require that they put themselves in violent circumstances. While Mike Myers’ Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is a wildly over the top Saturday Night Live-style spoof of 60s era fashions and entertainment, Grosse Pointe Blank is a rather dissimilar fish out of water tale that takes its cast and violence a little more seriously. Although the latter film is less obviously a take on a particular era, check out that banner behind Cusack’s noggin. His movie certainly isn’t averse to taking advantage of its audience’s nostalgia. It’s also reasonable to take a look at those two posters above and realize that none of the people there are what could be called movie stars anymore.


Our first comedy matchup was not as much of a foregone conclusion as some of the previous bouts in this bracket have been, but in the end Jim Carrey’s Liar Liar held off Julia Roberts’ big Rom Com comeback and will now face the winner of today’s paired pistol-packing comedies.

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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is without a doubt one of the more memorable movies that was released in 1997, but it hardly started out that way. Thanks in part to its very reasonable budget and a limited group of competing movies when it was released in May, the movie managed to make a good profit. On its opening weekend it came in second place behind a movie called Breakdown. Anybody here remember that one? No? Well, the following week Austin Powers was still one spot behind it, but now that meant it was in fourth place. Based on decent word of mouth, Myers and company managed to hang out in the top ten for another month and a half. Still, it hadn’t quite become the cultural touchstone that it would. But when Austin Powers made its way to video, the United States was fully ready to fall for the groovy secret agent and his catch phrases were now on everybody’s lips. The 1999 sequel ended up being the big cash-in, with a $200 million take domestically, practically four times what the original movie made. Both movies undoubtedly have moments of light comic inspiration, earning most of their laughs straight up, but it only makes sense that a comedy series based primarily on nostalgic satire and repeated catch phrases would have a sell-by date. When a third installment showed up three additional years later, it managed to be a hit but the shine was off the property and the guy who was still quoting it was no longer the hit of the party.

In contrast to Austin Powers, John Cusack’s starring vehicle about a professional hit man taking time off to attend his high school reunion and reacquaint himself with the girl he left behind without warning, was never a hit. The fact that it’s hard to find out the production budget suggests that Grosse Pointe Blnk might have lost money despite generally good reviews. Where the movie actually saw some success was on the Billboard albums chart, where its soundtrack collection of edgy rock and ska from the mid 80s spent an extended time, topping out at #31. This being considered a hit shows the difference between the movie business and the music business. Ex-Clash frontman Joe Strummer not only contributed two of his classic songs to the soundtrack, but also composed the movie’s score. I was working in a record shop in 1997 and the compilation disc didn’t just hang out on our shelves, but flowed through them steadily. If I hadn’t already owned more than half of the songs contained on it I might have been tempted by it myself. The Clash, Violent Femmes, the English Beat, the Jam, and Faith No More flowed over our speakers often after we got a copy in return. Only a bit more surprising was the appearance of a second volume of the soundtrack for a movie that was a box office failure and basically re-ran the same approach of cherry picking memorable hits of college radio. Whether this second volume was successful seems doubtful. Still, both volumes did the job of promoting the movie when it appeared on home video…and people still seem to remember and like it. Cusack did take that pen he was gifted in Say Anything” and murder a guy with it in Grosse Pointe Blank…that’s pretty funny.

So which would you like to see move on in our bracket? The goofy comedy or the brooding action comedy? Vote here and tell us about it in the comments below.

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Posted on January 23, 2017, in bracket game, comedy, Movies, poll, trailers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Grosse Pointe Blank is a bit of a favorite of mine, and for me, at least, it holds up better over time.

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  2. Still deciding which one to vote for, as I like both of them.

    A few days ago I was at Target and was gazing through the discount DVDs. Came across Austin Powers. Grabbed it and re-watched it for the first time in about 18 years. While not as fresh as it was in 1997, it’s still enjoyable. The less said about the sequels, the better. Austin Powers is a concept that really only works for one movie.

    GPB’s box office disappointment albeit with critical acclaim isn’t surprising. It was a film that was a little too edgy to fit securely into the mainstream, yet was a little too mainstream to find favor with the art-house/indie crowd. Unlike Austin Powers, which I caught on video in October of 1997, I was one of the few who saw GPB during its theatrical run. I saw it again on video. But haven’t watched it in about 15 years or so. I enjoyed it at the time, even as I felt certain aspects could’ve been better (the ending was kinda cliched).

    So by a hair my vote goes to the shagadelic spy.

    BTW: A certain man who’s been in the news a lot lately is reminiscent of Dr. Evil except he has hair.

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    • All he wants is sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads. How hard is that?

      There are elements and jokes in the Austin Powers sequels that are funny. This Michael Caine quote from the third movie is one.

      Talk to people about Austin Powers in general and they’ll eventually get around to mentioning Mini Me and Fat Bastard, but those characters didn’t show up until the second movie, which certainly made the lion’s share of the box office money for the franchise. While I agree that neither sequel was fully necessary, the third movie is the one that stood out at the time as particularly pointless.

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  3. It took me two years to watch the first Austin Powers film (too many people who talked about it made me think that if they liked it, I wouldn’t), but I was on board with “Grosse Pointe Blank” even before it was released, so that gets my vote.
    Oh, I remember “Breakdown”-Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan, reminds me a bit of 1993’s “The Vanishing”.

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    • Still, the fact that it was number one at the box office kind of helps to put that distinction in perspective, doesn’t it? I probably hadn’t thought about that movie even in passing since the last time I saw a tv commercial for the video release some 19 years ago. Movies are about so much more than their opening weekend grosses.

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      • I have to say that I’m surprised that “Breakdown” was #1 for a time. I remember it, but I didn’t know it was that big a deal either.

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  4. Breakdown plays pretty consistently on Epix which I have as part of my cable bundle. (Note to self: Call and change cable bundle.) It’s a decent thriller, but not terribly memorable.

    I come at the movies of ’97 with a different perspective because I was very immersed in them at the time. Not only were movies a hobby, they were my 9-5 job (although those were not the actual hours).

    When you’re working at a movie theater, you have to watch the prints prior to showing them to the public. That means you watch a lot of movies in an empty theater after midnight on weekdays. Despite the fact that the theater I was running was ostensibly an art house (we were still showing The English Patient in May of ’97), we got a print of Austin Powers.

    That tells you something about the low expectations for the first movie. My company has bookers who make deals with the studios regarding what movies show where. In order to get certain prices, they have to agree to show movies on a certain number of screens. Screen counts are very important to opening weekend box office. But not all screens are created equal. My little art house had three screens and very few paying customers. The company booked us with Austin Powers so they could add to their screen count without taking up room in one of their busier theaters.

    I went into Austin Powers with zero expectations. Myers wasn’t on a hot streak and this movie had no buzz. I had watched plenty of lousy SNL comedies and I figured this would be another one. But very early on, Austin Powers won me over. I started telling people what a funny, charming movie it was. Almost no one listened. Then months later when it was released on video, everyone started dropping the catchphrases because they had just discovered the movie.

    Time has not been kind to Austin Powers. The sequels and the catchphrases really wore out their welcome. But when I think of the first movie, I remember back to when I was in a small group of people who had discovered this hidden gem. Yeah, I have a soft spot. So Austin Powers got my vote.

    I do like Grosse Pointe Blank. It’s more substantial, but then Austin Powers is light as air. I just don’t have any strong connection to the John Cusack comedy.

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  5. I was never a big Austin Powers fan. I saw the first one in the theater, and thought it was merely okay. I became quite surprised when it became popular on video and spawned a hugely successful sequel.

    I’ve always really liked GROSSE POINTE BLANK. It’s hip and funny, with just the slightest dark edge to it. I watched it again last year for the first time in many years and still thoroughly enjoyed it.

    GPB gets MY vote.

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  6. speaking of cusack am wondering why is cusac current career similar to cgae. hes flooding with b movies. is he a jerk offscreen

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  7. how do u know cusack is a jerk

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  8. I never heard any costar say anything negative about him

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  9. iam wondering maybe this is why cusack made a lot of b movies last few years . he seemed nice from interviews. in one interview one intervieweer mistook him for spacey he was nice about it I could not picture hi being a jerk

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  10. but it seems like most of his recent stuff is similar to cage recent stuff

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  11. iam sure if u type up any actors name in google and type in jerk there will be stories. every actor has 1 negative story some peple have off days iam sure even some of the nicest people like hanks had his bad days. if I typed in cuakc nice guy on google iam sure ill read some stuff. it reminds me when I read a story of Freddie prinze called keifer a jerk on 24 . I do not know much about kefier or Freddie prinze outside their career so I could not comment on either. so even if keifer and Freddie prinze did not get along it might have been no ones fault their personalites did not mingle well

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