Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery Now On LD!

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Laserdisc. Mike Meyers, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Michael York, Mimi Rogers. Directed by Jay Roach. Aspect ratio: 2:1. Dolby Digital. Two sides. 90 minutes. 1997. New Line Home Video/Image Entertainment 3965LI. PG -13. $39.95.

Few people are capable of as much silliness as Mike Meyers, and he displays his talent for high absurdity to great effect in this James Bond send-up. He plays both the hero, Austin Powers, and the villain, Dr. Evil, in a plot revolving around cryogenics. Powers is frozen in the groovy 1960s so that he can thwart Dr. Evil, who has also been ice-cubed. When they wake up in contemporary America, neither is prepared for the changes wrought by 30 years of "progress."

While some comic actors are expert at delivering funny lines, Mike Meyers' forté is physical comedy in which he uses his whole body to express some very clever silliness. Somehow he makes Powers' expressions all slightly lopsided, while Dr. Evil has a peculiar hunched posture that's maintained even when he's seated.

Meyers is ably supported by Elizabeth Hurley in the eye-candy "straight-man" role. Two tightly choreographed scenes involving objects held up to cover "naughty parts" demonstrate that she, too, has a flair for physical comedy. Old pro Robert Wagner plays a character named #2, Dr. Evil's second-in-command. As a proper villain in a spy spoof, #2 sports a very becoming eye-patch and oozes evil corporate charm. Small roles worth noting include Roseanne's ex, Tom Arnold, making an appearance in a scene plumbing new depths in toilet humor, and Carrie Fisher's unbilled bow as a family therapist---ironic casting, considering her well-publicized family and personal histories.

The breathtaking colors in Austin Powers complement the fine comedic acting like love beads around the collar of a Nehru jacket---the title-credit scenes of swinging London are a riot of fully saturated natural and polyester tones. Director Jay Roach obviously spent many hours researching James Bond flicks, '60s Vogue magazines, and episodes of Hullabaloo, The Monkees, and Shindig. Austin Powers is an impressive distillation of late-'60s stylized visuals and surreality. Only the DVD transfer of Singin' in the Rain has a similar multiplicity of intense hues.

Not only does Austin Powers look fantastic, it sounds fab as well. George Clinton's musical interludes are shaken with '60s-chic cheese, not stirred---very reminiscent of John Barry's James Bond tracks. The '60s also echo in the soundtrack music from the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Johnny Rivers, Burt Bacharach, and Herb Alpert. The only musical letdown is Suzanna Hoff's lackluster rendition of "Look of Love." The sound effects are also impressive, chock-full of wraparound explosions, jet-engine rumblings, and random gratuitous gunshots.

This laserdisc contains almost 30 minutes of extras, including theatrical trailers (notice how much worse the color is than in the film itself), a "smash hit" rock video of "Do the BBC," deleted scenes (the one with Rob Lowe is priceless), two alternative endings, costume sketches, storyboards, poster mockups, and production stills.

Austin Powers is not only a very funny flick, but a superb reference-quality laserdisc as well. I usually rent, rather than buy LDs, but I broke down and added Austin Powers to my meager library so I could groove on it repeatedly.