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Currentfilm.com Review:

The Movie:


I remember working as a supervisor in a multiplex in 1997, looking through the latest posters we recieved. After going through the roll, I stopped at one and showed it to the rest of the staff. It was for a little, largely unknown movie called "Austin Powers". We all stood around the poster and went..."What the hell is that?". Of course, the movie, which had little in the way of expectations, went on to become a cult hit and an even bigger success on video, spawning two additional sequels.

Mike Meyers stars in the series as Austin Powers, a British secret agent who had a legendary reputation for his work on the force and as a womanizer. In the 1960's, Powers worked with partner Mrs. Kensington (Mimi Rogers) in trying to rid the world of villain Dr. Evil (also Meyers). However, Powers fails to stop Evil when the mad doctor freezes himself and shoots himself into space in a giant Bob's Big Boy statue.

Powers freezes himself, as well, and when Dr. Evil returns in the '90's, so does Austin, and both of them find a very different world than the one they'd left. Austin quickly gets shut down by Vanesssa (Elizabeth Hurley), who informs Austin that his swinging, free love ways from the '60's are no longer the norm . Meanwhile, Dr. Evil finds out that ransom demands have gone way up with the rate of inflation - a mere million just doesn't cut it anymore. It's the usual "fish out of water" flick, but the cross with a clever parody of spy flicks remains entertaining and often quite funny (although the laughs are a little stronger again not having seen the first film in a while.)

Meyers is at his best here, turning even simple bits such as turning around a little factory car in a tight hallway into enjoyable physical comedy. Hurley's also a terrific match for Meyers, too, despite not exactly being known for her comedy skills. Seth Green's role as Dr. Evil's son Scott also continues to be underappreciated, as Green creates a darkly funny take on the troubled Scott. The Scott character is really the only one that changes much throughout the series, as he gets progressively more unhinged.

The bigger sequel is mostly entertaining, improving in several ways upon the original. The second film opens with Dr. Evil launching out of the Bob's Big Boy to try another attempt for world domination. Meanwhile, while on his honeymoon with Vanessa, Austin finds out that she's not really who she said she was. Although initially heartbroken, it quickly dawns on Austin that this means a return to his old ways.

Meanwhile, Scott Evil has gone on "Jerry Springer" in order to discuss his pain due to his father's absence, only to be surprised when Dr. Evil is the unexpected guest. Dr. Evil gets his own surprise when he returns to his HQ to find that the work done to clone him resulted in Mini-Me (Verne Troyer). While Dr. Evil froze himself to return in the future in the first film, this time around, he's headed back to the past in a time machine in order to have henchman Fat Bastard (Meyers, again) steal Austin's mojo while he was frozen.

After Austin realizes what's happened, he heads back to the past in order to stop Dr. Evil's latest plan, which involves targeting Washington, DC (and other cities) with a laser - from the safety of a moon base. Austin's assisted by Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham, providing a delightful performance and showing fine chemistry with Meyers), an American CIA agent who quickly falls for Austin's charms. Meyers once again turns in a terrific performance, but the creation of the Fat Bastard character is too much of a leap into bathroom humor for a series that had - while raunchy in a good natured way - had never really ventured far into fart jokes.

Although the original movie had some moments of slow going, it was successful because director Jay Roach and actor/co-writer Mike Meyers brilliantly brought a 60's swinger into 90's culture. Not only did they create a great character in Powers, but offered an equally great villian in Dr. Evil (also played by Meyers). The first sequel had its share of delightful moments too and actually, improved upon the original in some aspects.

Unfortunately, "Goldmember" sees bathroom humor taking over, as the majority of the film's jokes revolve around it in some fashion. Yes, some of these jokes still get a laugh due to inspired construction, but when they fail, they fail very noticably. The film succeeds best where the other two shined: superb parody of both pop culture (a scene with a caged Dr. Evil that parodies "Silence of the Lambs" is incredibly funny) and the spy genre.

The story here is a bit more slight than the prior episodes, too. This time, Austin tries to solve the kidnapping of his father (Michael Caine) by the duo of Dr. Evil and Goldmember (also played by Meyers). But, of course, Dr. Evil has more in store in another attempt to take over the world.

"Goldmember" still has some solid laughs throughout the film, but it's a little more inconsistent than the the prior two films. Goldmember, a dutch club owner from the 70's who eats flakes of his own skin, isn't a particularly funny creation and goes along with the film's move towards gross-out humor. Meyers only gets a few laughs out of Goldmember thanks to the reactions to him from Dr. Evil. Fat Bastard, a Meyers creation introduced in the sequel, also makes an unnecessary and unpleasant return. The whole Austin arguing with his father thing also isn't particularly entertaining and mole with a giant mole played by Fred Savage is about the least funny joke in the entire series.

Still, the positives return. Meyers has always given the Dr. Evil character the best lines and, in this case, Dr. Evil clearly gets the biggest share of the film's finer gags. Caine does okay with what little he's given to do - the same can be said for Beyonce Knowles, who does decent work with not much of a character as Foxxy Goldmember. Seth Green also does terrific work as Scott Evil - some of his funniest work can be found this time around.

Although not as successful as the prior two films, Meyers still launches into most of "Goldmember"'s material with the same sort of energy, which is largely why the film works as well as it does.


The DVD

VIDEO: The "Austin Powers" films are presented by New Line in 2.40:1 (1080p/VC-1). Although there are a few little issues seen at times throughout the films, the colorful flicks otherwise appeared fresh and sleek on their high-def debut. Sharpness and detail were often terrific (and certainly appeared improved over the DVD releases), but all three films did have some stretches that looked softer than the rest.

While definition was somewhat inconsistent at times, the good news was that few other concerns presented themselves: aside from a couple of hints of noise, a few traces of edge enhancement and a handful of print flaws, the films appeared pristine. Colors appeared bright and bold, with full, rich tones. Overall, colors appeared to have a bit more pop on these Blu-Ray editions than they did on DVD. Black level remained solid throughout the films and flesh tones looked spot-on.

SOUND: All three films are presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The original film hasn't got too much going on, using the rear speakers only for some of the more intense scenes towards the end of the picture. Audio quality is fine, as the presentation boasted crisp, clear dialogue. The sequel does offer more in the way of action and, as a result, the sequel's sound mix is moderately more aggressive, with the rear speakers used for effects and reinforcement of the score. A considerably better soundtrack than one might expect from a comedy, "Goldmember" turns on the surrounds surprisingly often to deliver the music and the occasional sound effects. The music really makes the film what it is and thankfully, the sound designers have given it room to breathe in the surrounds instead of lumping it in the front with everything else. The music also has a surprisingly rich and dynamic feel, with depth and warmth to the sound. Dialogue remains natural and clear, as well.

EXTRAS:
"International Man of Mystery" extras include 5 deleted scenes, 2 alternate endings and a commentary from Mike Meyers and Jay Roach.

"Spy Who Shagged Me" Extras:
Commentary: A commentary track again from Mike Meyers and director Jay Roach(who did the commentary track on the first film) and who are joined by co-screenwriter Michael McCullers. The three are very funny together and talk quite a bit about how improv figures into the movie, in both bits that were come up with on the fly, but also casting people who were able to think quickly and come up with a joke when needed. The three also talk about how they stepped up from the first film and the differences in not only writing but production between the two.

This (as well as the original "Austin Powers" commentary) is more focused on the acting and the writing than the technical aspects of filmmaking, with a lot of talk about working with members of the cast of the original film, as well as talking about the challenges of casting parts like Mini-me. And of course, there are quite a few tidbits about the inspiration behind certain scenes, and which films (like "Thomas Crown Affair") inspired certain scenes. Meyers also talks about where the Austin Powers character was born in a very funny story. There are a few short bits about the technical details, though: a few bits about filmmaking from director Jay Roach and some notes about the film's special effects.

I was a little suprised by a number of short pauses, but overall, the commentators are able to talk for the majority of the movie. McCullers adds tidbits nicely, talking here and there throughout the commentary track. It's an interesting and entertaining track, and as good as the track from the first picture's DVD.

Deleted Scenes: There's nearly 20 minutes of deleted scenes that are included on this DVD, and there are actually some that really should have been left in the movie, or put in place of some of the scenes that ended up in the final film. There are a ton of scenes, some of which seem more like extended bits of scenes that are already in the picture, and some of which are actual deleted scenes. A few of the early bits, such as extended Starbucks and Jerry Springer bits had me laughing incredibly hard. There are also a few scenes included that just don't work, but they're still fun to see. All of the scenes are letterboxed at 2.35:1.

Behind The Scenes: A 26 minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie that's a very enjoyable and in-depth look at the production of the movie, with plenty of interviews with not only Meyers, but the rest of the cast and crew. Again, like the commentary, there are some notes again about the films and styles that inspired the whole "Austin Powers" series. What I really liked though, and what's different from the usual "documentary" is that instead of showing clips of the movie between interviews, we're shown clips of the production at work, which I like. I think this documentary takes us further into the production than most features which I've seen lately, especially with all of the fun and interesting looks at the production at work.

Canned Ham: The Doctor Evil Story: This is a hilarious parody of the "biography" series, only by Comedy Central. It takes a look at the history of Dr. Evil, with interviews from all of the characters involved in the story, including some hilarious bits from Seth Green, who plays Scott Evil. This is a fairly long documentary, running about 20 minutes. There are quite a few interview bits with Meyers as Dr. Evil talking about what it takes to rule the world that are incredibly funny.

Music Videos: Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger" (which was directed by "Rush Hour" director Brett Ratner), Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman" and Scary Spice's "Word Up".

Trailers::"The Spy Who Shagged Me"'s full trailer and 2 teaser trailers.

Behind The Scenes: A 26 minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie that's a very enjoyable and in-depth look at the production of the movie, with plenty of interviews with not only Meyers, but the rest of the cast and crew. Again, like the commentary, there are some notes again about the films and styles that inspired the whole "Austin Powers" series. What I really liked though, and what's different from the usual "documentary" is that instead of showing clips of the movie between interviews, we're shown clips of the production at work, which I like. I think this documentary takes us further into the production than most features which I've seen lately, especially with all of the fun and interesting looks at the production at work.

"Goldmember" extras:

"Focus Points" are a series of clips (alternate takes, etc.) that can be played throughout the movie when a golden icon shows up in the upper corner of the screen.

Commentary: The DVD offers a commentary from director Jay Roach and actor/writer/producer Mike Meyers. The two are low-key but extremely funny - the pair has recorded tracks for every one of the DVD releases of "Powers" films, but this is probably the best. Meyers drops in countless little jokes about the making of the movie that are even funnier when he offers them in such a funny, throwaway fashion. When not kidding about the production, the two discuss their opinions on crafting comedy and working together again for a third picture.

Beyond The Movie: This section offers a series of short featurettes that expands upon the "Powers" story. "MI-6: Men of Mystery" talks about the real life British spies; "English, English" goes into the version of English that "Goldmember" occasionally uses; "Disco Fever" talks about the era and how the film's crew tried to recreate the time. Lastly, there's "Fashion Vs. Fiction" (costume design) and a "Fact Track", which offers a lot of interesting tidbits as a "subtitle" feature on the film itself.

Deleted Scenes: About twenty two minutes of deleted/extended scenes can be found in this section. A fair amount of the scenes simply don't work, but there are some funny scenes that seem to have been cut for pacing reasons. The last few minutes of the section provide some pretty amusing outtakes.

The World of Austin Powers: This area offers a few featurettes: "Jay Roach and Mike Meyers: Creative Convergence", "Confluence of Characters" (a few featurettes of its own), "Opening Stunts" and "The Cars of Austin Powers". Although these pieces are pretty enjoyable, "Anatomy of Three Scenes" provides better information. This section offers a look at three scenes: "Dancing at the Gates", "Roller Disco" and "Sumo Battle". We're shown behind-the-scenes clips of the cast and crew at work on these scenes, while director Jay Roach narrates, discussing how the scene was assembled and the roles of the various crew members.

Visual FX: FX supervisor Dave Johnson provides an introductory featurette, going through the various techniques used in "Goldmember", which ranged from primitive to very high-tech. Also in this section is a very short multi-angle clip that shows all of the different elements of an FX shot.

Music Videos: Videos for Britney Spears' "Boys", Beyonce Knowles' "Work it Out", Ming Tea's "Daddy Wasn't There" and Dr. Evil and Mini-Me's "Hard Knock Life".

Trailers: 4 teaser trailers and the film's theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts: Although the franchise starts to run out of steam with "Goldmember", the first two films are still very funny. The Blu-Ray editions offer very good audio/video quality and carry over extras from the DVD releases. Recommended.



DVD Information





Austin Powers Collection: Shagadelic Edition (Blu-Ray)
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment
2.40:1
Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English/
Rated PG-13
1080P
VC-1
Available At Amazon.com: Austin Powers Collection: Shagadelic Edition (Blu-Ray)