You have to hand it to movies like “Austin Powers” in that they’re so clever, yet so corny at the same time. I mean really, a catch phrase like “Oh behave!” actually caught on in this country a decade ago and I still hear it from time to time. “Austin Powers” did for James Bond what “Scary Movie” did for “Scream”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “The Sixth Sense” in that the material was there, it was just a way of presenting it in a way that made things a lot more enjoyable. Ironically, the first installment of the trilogy (and perhaps a fourth is on the way…maybe?) was the least successful financially. The movie did about $50 million at the box office in the summer of 1997 but really caught on in the home video market. “Austin Powers” was one of my first DVD’s reviewed on this site and at the time I was still reviewing them from my own personal collection. If you’re feeling nostalgic, and I know you are, check it out. That aside, the movie really wouldn’t work without Mike Myers. Myers has made more of a name for himself playing outlandish characters as opposed to playing himself (see: “So I Married an Axe Murderer” for that). Myers does double duty as the lavish Austin Powers and the psdueo-bad guy, Dr. Evil. For those that haven’t seen the movie (admit it, you’re out there) here’s the rundown.
Austin Powers (Mike Myers) is a British secret agent and the most swinging, free-loving cat out there. The year is 1967 and things couldn’t be better. This is until his nemesis Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) has himself frozen and catapulted into space. Fearing that he’ll be needed in the future, Austin has himself cryogenically frozen only to be awakened thirty years later in the year 1997. Austin is then assigned to work with Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), with whom he’s instantly attracted. Dr. Evil quickly re-assembles his team of henchmen and unveils a plot to rule the world. He’s decided to drill a hole to the center of the Earth that will cause every volcano to erupt unless his demands are met. Naturally it’s up to Austin to stop him and save the day/world but can he do it and will he ever get to shag Vanessa or is it meant to be?
The play between Myers and Hurley is what really makes the movie tick and though there are some good cameos by Robert Wagner, Seth Green and Will Ferrell (yes, he was around then too) it really is Myers’ show. Every angle is covered and those familiar with the James Bond franchise will undoubtedly recognize some of the more subtle nuances. As I mentioned before, this first installment of “Austin Powers” really set the standard for the two to come and this is arguably the best of the trio. The second and third films raked in over $200 million each at the domestic box office making “Austin Powers” one of the more successful franchises in quite some time. In fact, one might wonder if it’d been better/easier/more successful if Myers hadn’t make “The Love Guru” and just focused on “Austin Powers 4” instead. At any rate, this modern classic hasn’t really lost any of its flare since 1997 and it’s still as enjoyable as it was when I first saw it. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat.
Video: How does it look?
I’ve owned “Austin Powers” on several different formats including VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and now Blu-ray and though this Blu-ray is the best looking of the lot, it still leaves a bit to be desired. First of all, the aspect ratio has been tampered with. The back of the package says that it’s presented in a 2.40:1 ratio (which it is), though all the other versions were 2.00:1 and I even broke out my old DVD to check. Now this isn’t a huge deal to most as they won’t notice the difference, but I’m wondering why the aspect ratio was changed in the first place? Still, the colors are bright and vivid and the VC-1 HD transfer does make the most of the picture. One thing that really stood out was the noise in some of the background scenes, there appears to be a lot of grain associated with the print and though some scenes looked positively stunning, most has at least some element that I noticed. I suppose the age of the film could be the culprit, though at eleven years old I’ve seen plenty of other movies far older than this and they looked better on screen. Still, fans should enjoy the presentation even though I feel there’s room for improvement.
Audio: How does it sound?
“Austin Powers” has been given a Dolby TrueHD uncompressed mix, though it seems like a 5.1 mix as opposed to a 7.1 mix (the other two films have a “true” 7.1 mix). That being said, the soundtrack is still strong and the ambiance is there, for sure. Dialogue is very clean and the hypnotic music does tend to stay with you long after the credits roll. I caught a few instances in which the surrounds kicked in, but by and large this mix is limited to the front channels.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any new supplements on this disc, New Line has taken what already existed and simply ported it over to Blu-ray. The audio commentary by Mike Myers and director Jay Roach was (and still is) good to listen to and you can really hear their thoughts on the film and their inspiration. The same deleted scenes are included as well as two alternate endings. The original theatrical trailer is also shown and in poor quality. I suppose a testament to how “good” the picture quality on the feature film is contrasted by how bad the trailer looks.