There’s a lot of nostalgia going around these days. From TV reboots and continuations like Fuller House and Gilmore Girls, to movie sequels like T2: Trainspotting (still a terrible title) and reboots like next year’s The Predator, and elsewhere, people seem keen on rehashing the past to get their entertainment kicks. I’m no different. In search of the next great series of posts, I’ve decided to wax nostalgic and look back at the summer movies of 20 years ago, week-by-week.
We’re going to begin with 1997.
Why 1997? Well, for one thing, it’s the 20th anniversary of these movies. For another, that was a big year for me in my moviegoing life. I had just moved back from Dubai to Boca Raton, Florida the year before – now a high school graduating senior who can drive and officially see any movie he wants, when he wants. I was unencumbered. I saw everything. Hell, I still see everything. Talk about maturity.
This will be a weekly series of posts for the remainder of summer, looking at what noteworthy films came out during the corresponding weekend back in 1997. If it works, next year, I’ll cover the 20th anniversary of 1998’s summer offerings, and so on and so forth. Let’s get to it.
May 2, 1997
Big News Story: Eddie Murphy picked up a transsexual prostitute in his car early that morning. Undercover officers arrested the transsexual but not Murphy.
AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY
Stars: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Seth Green, Robert Wagner, Mimi Rogers, Michael York
Director: Jay Roach
IMDB Synopsis: A 1960s hipster secret agent is brought out of cryofreeze to oppose his greatest enemy in the 1990s, where his social attitudes are glaringly out of place.
Domestic Box Office: $53.8M
Worldwide Box Office: $67.6M
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70%
Critics Consensus: A light and goofy comedy which provides laughs, largely due to performances and screenwriting by Myers.
What I Said Then: Austin Powers was a surprisingly hilarious comedy that seemed to come out of nowhere. It had minimal marketing and was released with very little fanfare. I first saw it on the Friday afternoon of its opening day almost on a whim. I loved Myers in the dual roles of Austin Powers and Dr. Evil. I told all my friends to go see it. When it finally hit VHS (yup, no DVD yet) in the fall, I was a freshman at Butler University. We ended up watching that movie almost non-stop at every free moment until Christmas, when Boogie Nights took over its constant rotation.
What I Say Now: It holds up as one of the greatest original comedies of all time. Myers is an undoubtedly a genius, but would struggle to reach the same heights later in his career. The sequels each have their merit and include some comedic bits that are in many ways funnier than anything here. But, this first film is clearly the best. I still say, “I’ll stay,” with a wave of the hand, and “I too like to live dangerously.” That scene is even funnier now, having learned how to actually play Blackjack. “20 beats your 5.” Hollywood Reporter just did a definitive oral history of the making of this film, and it’s required reading for any fans. Check it out here.
Stars: Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan
Director: Jonathan Mostow
IMDB Synopsis: A man searches for his missing wife after his car breaks down in the middle of the desert.
Domestic Box Office: $50.1M
Worldwide Box Office: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%
Critics Consensus: A brainy and suspenseful — if somewhat uneven — thriller.
What I Said Then: I really dug Breakdown. It’s a lean, mean little thriller that has a great hook and builds to an exciting finale. This is a grown-up thriller that my parents would probably enjoy watching at home on a Saturday night.
What I Say Now: Ditto, and I think my parents probably did at some point. The influence of Steven Spielberg’s Duel is all over this movie. I hadn’t seen Duel back in 1997, but it clearly inspired Breakdown in all the right ways. Kurt Russell was, is, and forever will be the man. Mid-budget, adult thrillers like this aren’t really made anymore. In an interesting twist, Breakdown would probably premiere on Cable or VOD today, much like Duel was a made-for-TV movie back in 1971. I guess in some ways, we really haven’t come that far in 40 years, have we?
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