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MOVIE INFO
Director:
Jay Roach
Cast:
Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Fabiana Udenio, Mindy Sterling
Screenplay:
Mike Myers

Tagling:
If he were any cooler, he'd still be frozen, baby!
Box Office:
Budget $17 million.
Opening weekend $9.548 million on 2187 screens.
Domestic gross $53.868 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG-13 for nudity, sex-related dialogue and humor.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.0:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Digital Stereo
Subtitles:
English, French, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 10/21/1997

Bonus:
• Audio commentary by Mike Myers and director Jay Roach
• 7 deleted scenes including 2 alternate endings
• Spy Genre Retrospective
• Cast Biographies & Filmographies
• Theatrical Trailer
• "Music to Shag To" original animated sequence


PURCHASE
DVD
Score soundtrack

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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Nostradamus I ain't. Back when I first learned of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery through trailers and TV appearances by star Mike Myers, I felt absolutely certain it would bomb. Parodies don’t often succeed at the box office - you can add the total gross of the last 10 Leslie Nielsen films and you’ll still find more money in your couch - and Austin Powers didn't look like something that would appeal to much of the public. A parody of James Bone and other flicks from the genre with a main character who spouts anachronisms from the Swinging London of the Sixties? Yikes - better start pre-production on Wayne's World 3, Mike, because this turkey won’t help your career!

Okay, I was wrong. Not as mistaken as all the doom and gloom predictions about Titanic - which most thought would lose buckets of money - but still pretty far off base. With two megahit sequels since the original came out in 1997, Powers proved to be a surprising success.

Austin Powers appears to be one of those films people either love or hate. Well, many people, at least; personally, I neither love nor hate it. Actually, I preferred it during my additional viewings. When I saw Powers theatrically, it did little for me, but I’ve come to like it during DVD screenings. A lot of time, comedies seem more enjoyable at home; it's easier to take in the content on your own terms rather than be influenced by the reactions of a hundred other folks.

Austin Powers starts in 1967 as we meet superspy Austin (Myers) as he and his cohort Mrs. Kensington (Mimi Rogers) chase his archnemesis Dr. Evil (also Myers). The latter escapes, and Austin agrees to undergo a cryogenic freeze. His allies will snap him out of it when the also-frozen Evil re-emerges.

This occurs after 30 years. While they do battle, both characters have to come to terms with the altered society in which they now live. All of Evil’s cohorts still are around, but he now finds he has a rebellious teen son named Scott (Seth Green). Austin meets up with Mrs. Kensington’s daughter Vanessa (Elizabeth Hurley). A prim and proper sort, she and Austin don’t hit it off right away, but she slowly starts to develop affection toward the anachronistic old swinger.

Powers really doesn’t feature much of a storyline. Sure, Austin chases Dr. Evil, tries to bed Vanessa, and generally comes to terms with the late 20th century, but the emphasis remains on the flick’s gags. In that realm, Powers can be fairly hit or miss. Some fine material appears, while other jokes fall flat. Nonetheless, it possesses a nice sense of affection toward the subject, so it never feels mean-spirited. It’s both a parody and an homage to the genre.

Overall, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery offers a fairly entertaining little film that supplies its share of decent laughs, and it has a nice rewatchability about it. It's one of those films that tends to grow on you as time passes; there's enough going on in the frame that you'll probably spot new things with each viewing. Of the three flicks in the series, the original remains the best.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.0:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. I wish I could report that Mystery appeared in its original theatrical dimensions, but that wasn’t the case. For reasons unknown, the transfer used a compromise 2:1 ratio. This moderately cropped the sides at times, though director Jay Roach shot it in the Super 35 format, which helped retain much of the original information. When necessary during a split-screen shot, the image reverted to 2.35:1 to make sure it didn’t lose material off the sides.

I still don’t understand why anyone endorsed the 2:1 transfer. The folks who don't like letterboxing aren't going to oppose it less because it's a little less narrow than 2.35, and those of us who do like letterboxing will feel irritated that the original theatrical presentation has been altered. Essentially, it's a compromise that pleases no one.

With or without the original aspect ratio, I found Mystery to provide a generally mediocre image. Sharpness usually seemed good. A few wide shots looked somewhat soft, but those didn’t appear too frequently. For the most part, the movie seemed detailed and accurate. However, the movie suffered from a vaguely “digital” look that made it a bit edgy. I noticed occasional examples of shimmering and also detected a moderate amount of edge enhancement. The DVD showed some digital artifacts. It also featured some speckles and grit, but the artifacts caused the most substantial distractions.

Colors usually looked good, and they often offered the strongest aspects of Mystery. The film used a terrifically varied and bright palette, and much of the movie provided clean and vibrant tones. However, they occasionally seemed a bit heavy, such as during the Fembot sequence; those colors appeared somewhat murky. Black levels were deep and dark, which shadow detail came across as appropriately dense but not excessively thick. Overall, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery had its highs and lows which led me to give it only a “C+” grade.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Mystery seemed more consistently pleasing. The film’s soundfield complemented the action, though it rarely became terribly active. The forward realm showed good stereo separation for the music, and those speakers also offered solid spread for effects. Those elements blended together well and moved neatly between the channels. The surrounds mainly added general reinforcement, as Mystery featured a good sense of environment.

Audio quality appeared positive for the most part. At times, speech sounded slightly tinny, but the lines usually seemed distinct and natural, and they showed no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects appeared accurate and dynamic, and they demonstrated no distortion. Music seemed vivid and bright, and bass response appeared acceptably deep and tight. The audio of Mystery was clear and bold, and the track lost points mainly due to its lack of sonic ambition.

This DVD release of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery presents a decent roster of extras. First we find an audio commentary from actor/writer Mike Myers and director Jay Roach. Both were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Although it sags at times, it generally offers an entertaining and informative piece. The pair cover a reasonable amount of details related to the movie, and though Myers isn’t the laugh riot one might expect, he drops some funny lines at times. I especially liked the running gag in which he mocks Roach’s insistence that Liz Hurley appeared in skimpy outfits as part of her “character arc”. Overall, the commentary seems good but unexceptional.

Next we locate seven deleted scenes. Each of these lasts between 45 seconds and 166 seconds for a total of 10 minutes, 39 seconds of material. Although none of these seem like killer clips, they are at least interesting and watchable, more so than a lot of the dreck that ends up on the cutting room floor. In any case, they make for quite a nice and entertaining extra and add value to this set.

For some text about non-Bond films, check out the Spy Genre Retrospective. This provides basic information about movies that fall under the spy umbrella and seems helpful. The Cameo Menu allows you to jump to scenes that feature these four performers: Carrie Fisher, Tom Arnold, Burt Bacharach and Rob Lowe. It also includes filmographies for those folks.

In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer - presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio – we find a section called The Cast. it offers short biographies and filmographies for Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Mimi Rogers, and Michael York. Also, within the various filmographies, we find clips from Dangerous Ground (Hurley), Lost In Space, Monkey Trouble and The Rapture (Rogers), and Wide Sargasso Sea (York).

Swedish Made Penis Enlarger Pump offers an odd waste of time. You go from screen to screen and get choices like “Continue or behave”. Go all the way to the end and you see a strange still photo piece with music and shots of Austin accompanied by catchphrases from the film. What’s the point? I have no idea. Music to Shag To essentially offers that odd musical/catchphrase montage on its own.

No, I never thought that Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery would spawn an incredibly successful series of sequels, but the movie definitely presents a generally amusing and entertaining piece of work. Though erratic as a whole, it tosses in enough warm and endearing humor to make it a fun film. The DVD suffers from moderately flawed picture quality, but it provides pretty good audio and a small but generally positive selection of supplements. The releases of the two Powers sequels seem significantly stronger as DVDs, but the original easily offers the best film experience.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0666 Stars Number of Votes: 30
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