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Jay Roach
Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Rob Lowe, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Elizabeth Hurley, Gia Carides
Mike Myers

First, he fought for the Crown. Now he's fighting for the Family Jewels.
Box Office:
Budget $33 million.
Opening weekend $54.917 million on 3312 screens.
Domestic gross $70.2 million.
Rated PG-13 for sexual innuendo and crude humor.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Digital Stereo

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 11/16/1999

• 20 minutes of deleted scenes
• Audio commentary with Mike Myers, director Jay Roach, and co-writer Michael McCullers
• Behind the scenes documentary
• Dr. Evil's "hidden" special feature page: Jump to the Dr. Evil song; Comedy Central's Canned Ham: The Dr. Evil's Story
• Music videos: Madonna Beautiful Stranger
• Lenny Kravitz American Woman
• Mel B (aka Scary Spice) Word Up
• Four theatrical trailers
• DVD-ROM Features

Music soundtrack

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Will someone please explain to me how a moderately successful movie like Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery goes on to spawn a sequel that makes nearly four times as much money? For those keeping track: AP:IMOM took in about $53 million, whereas Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me raked in an amazing $205 million! The sequel actually surpassed the gross of the original during its opening weekend!

And all this despite the fact that AP:TSWSM was easily a much less entertaining film than was the original. My position in this regard should not be taken to an extreme: I didn't think AP:IMOM was a classic and I didn't find AP:TSWSM to be a complete dog. But in comparison, the first film was much funnier and more creative; the sequel comes across as little more than a random melange of comedic elements with no unifying factor other than the desperate hope that the audience may actually find some of the bits funny.

Unfortunately, I rarely found much of AP:TSWSM to be witty or amusing. I've now seen the film twice: once during its theatrical run and once on DVD. I came away from the theatrical viewing quite shocked at how unfunny the film was, but I saw it during a very difficult time for me personally, so I was willing to consider that perhaps my emotional state influenced my opinion. (Didn't seem to stop me from enjoying Tarzan later that day, however.)

I also should note that I didn't much like AP:IMOM much when I saw it theatrically. It was only after I watched it on DVD that I started to develop an appreciation for it; while it'll never be at the top of my list, I think it's a pretty good and consistently funny little movie. The question stood: would history repeat itself when I viewed AP:TSWSM a second time?

Nope - not even close. If anything, I found the movie to be even less amusing the during the DVD screening. It's not so much that there's nothing in the film that works; it's just that moments that do hit get undermined quickly by useless repetition.

Two examples of that: the scene in which Fat Bastard discusses his desire to eat babies and eventually breaks into the Chili's baby back ribs song. That was pretty funny, but the filmmakers lacked the restraint to let the moment end; we have to see Fat Bastard pummel us with the gag by singing, "Chili's - baby back ribs!" We didn't need that. We already got the joke. The additional line killed a decent gag.

A similar occurrence happens when Dr. Evil has trouble with his revolving chair. It goes out of control and at one point he says that they'll need a young priest and an old priest. I thought that was a fairly subtle and clever Exorcist gag and laughed. Unfortunately, the next two lines are "The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!" Again, this was completely unnecessary and it ruined a good bit for me. In a way, it seemed like they felt that had to hammer us over the head to make sure we didn't miss the joke. On its own, the "power of Christ" bit would have been good, just as the priest line would have worked well; combined, however, they become redundant and spoil the humor.

I found AP:TSWSM simply to have a tremendously forced feeling about it. The first film worked because it was so small and unassuming in many ways. It was clear that no one thought the movie would do anything at the box office, so the filmmakers didn't have to worry about pleasing any particular audience; they could do what they wanted to do. This time around, however, they faced huge expectations after the relative success of the first film. Instead of dealing with those expectations by doing something original and creative, though, they decided to give the people more of the same but make it louder and more insistent.

It doesn't work. I don't know - maybe others found it entertaining to see the same jokes repeated from the first movie, but I didn't like it. I enjoyed Dr. Evil's "shhh!" bit in AP:IMOM, as did many other folks. Unfortunately, the filmmakers made a pathetic attempt to recapture this by having Evil do this same gag except with "zip it" as his phrase instead of "shhh!" If that wasn't bad enough - and it was pretty bad - they further pummel us by doing the "shhh!" joke itself later in the movie! Doesn't anyone involved with the movie have any sense of creativity?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the few new elements of AP:TSWSM that I most enjoyed. Mini-Me is a clever and fun creation, and Verne Troyer offers a nicely underplayed performance as the little fellow. Fat Bastard exists mainly as another way for Mike Myers to monopolize screen time (he also plays Austin and Dr. Evil), but despite the gimmickry, he's a pretty entertaining character, and one of the few elements of this movie that doesn't get done to death; probably because of the complicated nature of fitting Myers into that fat suit, Fat Bastard doesn't spend too much time on screen.

Some additional entertainment value is wrung from the film's cameos. I love Elvis Costello, so although his part (again) simply replicates a fun piece from the first movie, I like Elvis so I won't complain. Tim Robbins also turns in a terrific bit as the president; he's one of the few sparks I found in this film.

Probably the best new aspect of this film comes from the most surprising source: Rob Lowe's dead-on impression of Robert Wagner's Number Two. He captures Wagner's spirit and personality perfectly and seemingly effortlessly; Lowe is so dead-on that when I first saw the movie, it took me a while to figure out if the voice we heard was actually Lowe's or if they dubbed in Wagner's speech for his lines. It's all Lowe, though, and it's terrific.

I wish I could offer similar applause for Heather Graham's work as Austin's new love interest, Felicity Shagwell. Graham's easily one of the hottest women around today - I'd argue she's the sexiest blonde woman on the planet - and she actually can act, as evidence by her work in Boogie Nights. You wouldn't know that from her performance her, however. As was the case in Lost In Space, Graham seems to match her acting to the level of the material involved, and that's pretty low in this instance. She looks great throughout the movie but she seems plastic and flat. Liz Hurley looked equally gorgeous in the first film, but at least she managed to add some spark to her role. Graham remains an incredibly sexy disappointment.

"Disappointment" is a good word to cover about everything involved with AP:TSWSM. The filmmakers could have used the success of the first movie to operate from a position of power and do something really creative and entertaining, but they took the safe route and opted to simple duplicate everything that got a laugh the first time. Admittedly, a lot of people liked this movie and many even preferred it to the original. Well, that's their problem. AP:TSWSM isn't a complete disaster; it's watchable but uncompelling. I just couldn't help but feel sadness at what it could - and should - have been.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus A

Happily, that's not the case with this fine new DVD release from New Line. I think New Line produce the best DVDs around, and AP:TSWSM will do little to harm that reputation. The film is shown in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (yes, they got it right this time, unlike the strange 2:1 ratio director Jay Roach allegedly had them use for the first picture) on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image is enhanced for 16X9 screens.

While the picture of AP:TSWSM isn't a liability, it wasn't the strength I thought it would be. After all, this is a very recent movie, and New Line usually do an excellent job with their transfers. The picture looked consistently good but it lacked the high level of quality that I expected. Sharpness is occasionally a problem; the image often betrays a slight amount of softness. This tendency is not extreme, but it's there and it did distract me; the image lacked the razor-sharpness that I think it should have displayed. Colors were a great strength of the first film's DVD, and while they're not bad here, they don't approach the "eye-popping" level on display with that effort. Hues consistently look good but seem more subdued and not quite as bold.

As one would expect, the print used for AP:TSWSM appears very clean; I detected no grain or flaws. I also did not note any digital artifacts. Black levels and shadow detail aren't much of a factor in a brightly-lit, cartoon-colored film such as this, but when they did come into play, they looked just fine. Overall, AP:TSWSM looks pretty good but doesn't live up to my expectations.

The same can be said for the film's decent but unspectacular Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It gets the job done but lacks the flair and flash that I'd expect from a big budget spectacular. For the most part, the audio image remains very much biased toward the front channels; rear usage is pretty good when it occurs - some nice split surround effects pop up during the movie's climax - but these occasions are somewhat infrequent. The movie offers a fairly nice front soundstage, but even then, stereo effects are not fantastic. Still, they're pretty good.

I had no issues with the quality of the audio. In all aspects, it sounds excellent. Dialogue sounded natural and generally lacked any obvious "dubbed" appearance, while effects seemed realistic and clear. Music came across as full-bodied and vibrant. While the soundtrack lacked the dynamic channel-usage I expected, I certainly found the quality of the audio to be more than satisfactory.

Easily the best thing about the AP:TSWSM DVD is the wealth of supplements we find. This sucker's packed and tosses in a nice variety of extras. First up is an audio commentary from director Roach, star/co-producer/co-writer Myers, and cowriter Mike McCullers. Myers and Roach also contributed a track for the DVD for the first movie, and it was a disappointing semi-bore; it seemed dry and lacked the wit that one would expect from a comedic talent like Myers.

This commentary isn't exactly a laugh riot either, but it's a good sight better than the first one. Myers seems much more animated this time around, although he's still not terribly funny. (I think this is because Myers is more of an actor than a comedian; his talent lies in the characters he portrays, so when he appears as himself, he loses his strength.) Nonetheless, the track offers a perfunctory discussion of the film and its creation. It's still pretty dry and tends to be overly positive - no form of critiquing occurs - but it's worth a listen.

A pretty good "Behind the Scene" program appears on the DVD. It lasts for 26 minutes and acts as a nice complement to the commentary. Obviously, it's not exhaustive, but the show offers a good look at the way things worked on the set. As with the commentary, it's not tremendously informative, but it's a good watch nonetheless.

More interesting are the 21 (!) deleted scenes included on the DVD. Most of these are pretty brief; as a whole, the 21 scenes only amount to 19 minutes of screentime. Still, they're pretty funny and entertaining - surprisingly so, given my general dislike of the film itself. It's anyone's guess how they decided what to keep and what to toss; I saw little logical reason why many of these scenes didn't make the cut. The segments can be accessed individually or run back-to-back; they're even nicely edited together so they flow between scenes smoothly.

A wealth of promotional material appears on the DVD as well. Three trailers for AP:TSWSM are included. Two of these are the teaser trailers - the ones that refer to "Star Wars" - and they are nearly identical; they differ only in the closing lines that Dr. Evil utters. The full-length trailer is completely different and quite entertaining. A trailer for the first film also found its way onto the DVD.

Three music videos appear here. We see Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger", Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman", and Mel G's "Word Up". Amazingly, almost no footage from the film pops up in the videos; the "Word Up" clip uses a few seconds of outer space shots, but that's it.

That doesn't mean that the film tie-in isn't exploited, however. Indeed, each video features characters from the movie performing in the clip. It's pretty clear that a hierarchical system is on display here: Madonna gets Myers as Austin, Kravitz gets Graham, while Mel G merits only Troyer's Mini-Me.

Not surprisingly, Madonna's clip is easily the best of the bunch. It's a pretty good song and although the level of Madonna/Austin interaction isn't too high - much of the video consists of Maddy performing as Austin watches and reacts - it's still a lot of fun. Kravitz's piece isn't terribly special except for some rather, um, exciting shots of Graham gyrating to the music. Granted, Graham would be sexy making toast, but her actions here make the video well worth watching. (And watching again... and again... and again...) While I do love the Spice Girls, Mel's clip is something of a dog. Forget the merits (or lack thereof) of her cover of "Word Up" - it's not bad, but it's not very good, either - the video is inane and dopey. Oh well - Mel should be happy she was included at all, I suppose.

As also occurred on the first film's DVD, this one includes a list of cameo appearances and lets you easily access them; in all, eight actors are listed. Filmographies are provided for 12 actors and three crew members. No, I didn't mistype; these are not biographies. All we get are film and TV credits for these 15 folks. That's pretty weak and is one of the few missteps on this otherwise terrific DVD.

That accounts for all of the "normal" extras. However, a few more appear in "Easter egg" territory. Okay, the status of these supplements as "hidden extras" is pretty questionable since they're listed on the DVD's case, but since the case doesn't tell you how to find them, they count.

Here's what you do: click on the "special features" button and let Austin go through his shtick. (The disc includes full-motion clips of Austin that were obviously created especially for this DVD - nice touch!) After 30 seconds or so, a cartoon version of Dr. Evil's rocket will shoot through the center of the screen and will deposit a Dr. Evil logo in the middle. When it's done, click on the logo for a new list of extras.

The best one of these is a 20 minute program called The Dr. Evil Story. This show originally aired as Comedy Central's Canned Ham and works as a faux documentary under the "Spyography" banner. Robert Culp hosts the piece and it features interviews with most of the main characters in the film. The program's very funny and creative; I found it to be more enjoyable than the movie itself. (It didn't hurt that the show was 70 minutes shorter.) It's a very pleasant and happy addition to this DVD.

The Dr. Evil section also includes a few other minor extras. Direct access is provided to Dr. Evil's performances of "One Of Us" and "Just the Two Of Us", and we also receive a section called Classic Evil Schemes Gone Awry. That feature offers fun synopses of 16 different secret agent movies. Ten of the first eleven Bond films appear (for reasons unknown, The Man With the Golden Gun doesn't make the cut, and I also don't know why no films from the Eighties to date don't appear), and we also hear recaps of two Flint pictures as well as one each from Matt Helm and Harry Palmer plus two other movies. The synopses are brief but to the point and make for a fun addition to the DVD.

Finally, the AP:TSWSM DVD includes what appears to be a fair amount of DVD-ROM content. According to the case, we get: a sample round of the "Austin Powers: Operation Trivia" computer game; the entire AP:TSWSM website; Dr. Evil and Austin screen savers and web browsers; and "three interactive Austin episodes take over your desktop!" Still no DVD-ROM drive here, so I can't comment on any of these other than to alert you as to their existence.

Ultimately, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is a DVD I have to recommend just because it contains so many fun supplements for such a low price. While I expect the upcoming A Bug's Life and Tarzan special edition DVDs to offer a nice array of extras, I nonetheless wouldn't recommend them if I didn't like the films; with list prices of $49.95 each, that's just too much money.

However, since AP:TSWSM lists for only $24.95, I feel that it's worth obtaining just to enjoy the supplements. And it's not like I hate the film; I just don't think it's very good. Still, it's watchable, and the high quality of the extensive supplements makes this DVD a keeper.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.76 Stars Number of Votes: 25
3 3:
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