Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: Austin Powers vs Grosse Pointe Blank
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.
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.
Posted on January 23, 2017, in bracket game, comedy, Movies, poll, trailers and tagged 1997, Austin Powers, Grosse Pointe Blank, John Cusack, Mike Myers, Minnie Driver. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.