The Spy network in Los Angeles is just beginning to warm up to the summer films that are upon us. Soon... All the titles of the summer will begin testing (with the notable exception of STAR WARS which Lucas seems pleased to show to small gatherings of friends out at Skywalker Ranch instead of masses of folks in Burbank.) their films. Moriarty is working overtime in L.A. to make sure that all of us less fortunate ones can hear whether or not to get our hopes up for the Summer Fare. He has already given us a peek at THE IRON GIANT, STAR WARS EPISODE ONE (via it's script), THE MUMMY and a whole slew of Supernatural films.... But today, he pulls back the curtain on "THE MOST ANTICIPATED FILM OF THE SUMMER OF 1999 other than Star Wars"!!!! That's right... AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME!!! And if that were not enough, he also takes a peek at AMERICAN PIE... So take it away oh master of the Tibetan Chant!
Hey, Head Geek...
You know, every now and then, it just gets weird being an Evil Genius. You start out the day thinking it's going to be one thing, then you turn around and find that you've pioneered a new technology instead. Case in point: today, me, and cloning.
I was working in the Labs today when I got a call from Master Thief John Robie to tell me that there was a secret test screening somewhere in LA tonight of AUSTIN POWERS 2: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME. At almost the exact same moment, one of my henchmen came running in with a fistful of NRG passes for a screening of AMERICAN PIE. I was interested in seeing both films, but wasn't sure how I was going to pull it off. I decided to call up one of your newer reviewers, Segue Zagnut, and offer him whichever movie I wasn't going to go see.
As I was waiting for him to arrive, I was tinkering with a cloning chamber that I've never quite been able to perfect. It works great with nonorganic things, but since that's not really the point of cloning, I was ready to throw the thing on the trash heap with some of my other failed experiments. This was the first time I had even taken out the machine to look at it in months. Maybe it was the time off that did it, or maybe my mind was just in that special zone today, but I suddenly figured out what I had been doing wrong. Two quick modifications, and the Cloning Chamber went online.
It was right about then that Segue Zagnut arrived, and I got an idea. I decided that both of us would see both films. I would make one clone of each of us, and we would then send a team to each of the screenings, thereby totally confounding the test screening process by seeing not one, but two of them in one night. These weren't even in the same geographical ballpark, either. One was in Thousand Oaks, and the other was at the Universal Citywalk. We'd be in two place, almost an hour apart, at the same time. I was really excited by the plan, but Segue didn't seem so sure. He kept saying he'd try it next time, but since I wasn't about to be the first one into the chamber, I eventually used a Tibetan chant to lull him into a state of total willingness. I sealed him into the cloning chamber and set it for "100% scale replica." Ten minutes later, there were two Segues, side by side, both wearing a confused expression. Since Segue is frequently confused, it looked like everything was fine, so I climbed into the chamber myself.
The feeling of being cloned ranks somewhere between having a pack of wild dingos chew on your balls and time travel on the scale of pain. I would not recommend the process until I can add morphine to it somehow. The end results were incredible, though. I found myself staring at another Moriarty sitting three feet away, naked, dazed. For a moment, it was like something out of a David Lynch film, so I threw some clothes on him while I explained the mission. Segue did the same, and we sent the clones out to see AMERICAN PIE while the two of us took off on the long trek out to Thousand Oaks.
When we got there, neither of us actually had passes. This was no problem, as I've been practicing my Jedi Mind Trick in anticipation of the lines on May 19. If you're not Toydarian, get ready, 'cause I'm gonna steal your place in line, and you're going to like it. Very quickly, we found ourselves escorted into the theater, where a woman immediately began to ask both of us if we were the director of the film. After explaining that no, we were just there to see the film, she finally let us find seats.
New Line had a lot of kids in the audience tonight. By kids, I mean under 18. Most of them looked to be under 16, to tell the truth. They were rowdy before the movie, throwing popcorn, dancing, yelling across the theater at each other. Thankfully, they calmed down as soon as the lights went out and the movie began.
We were told that we were the very first audience to see the film, which evidently only wrapped seven weeks ago. I was surprised at how finished the whole thing looked after hearing all the warnings at the beginning of the film. This is pretty much ready to go after a few nips and tucks. The big thing that's unfinished right now is the score. It was all temp track tonight except for (I'm guessing) the opening theme song, which was an awesome Shirley Bassey parody singing about Austin, and the Burt Bacharach/Elvis Costello duet on "I'll Never Fall In Love Again." They used music from all the Bond films, the Quincy Jones piece from the original AUSTIN, and even some STAR WARS music. Oh, yeah... there's a lot of STAR WARS jokes in this film. Mike's been smart enough to make enough nods to keep the hardcore geeks happy this summer, the summer of Lucas. There's an opening crawl that's different from the opening in the script. There's the great, "I'm your father, Austin" scene, and there's a few other moments that are too good to spoil. Suffice it to say that the first trailer for AUSTIN was no single shot joke. SW fans will have a good time here.
So how's the film? I'd say very good over all, but not great. The spark that made the first one such an unexpected joy isn't as present here. Like the Bond movies, the Austin Powers films are going to all be essentially the same story, with a different girl along each time for Austin to shag and with different variations in Dr. Evil's plan. Don't get me wrong, though... this is a laugh out loud funny movie for most of its running time, and Mike Myers continues to prove himself as a man of many talents.
In addition to playing Austin and Dr. Evil in this film, Mike has added a new character to his repertoire -- Fat Bastard, a Scottish assassin in Evil's employ. He weighs one metric ton, and the makeup on Mike is astonishing and disgusting at the same time. He got groans of genuine disgust several times in the movie from the audience around me. In particular, I think New Line can cut way back on the whole nudity thing. It's deeply foul. Personally, I thought he was funny in a John Waters/can you believe you just saw that?/shock value sort of way, but he's not as inspired a creation as Dr. Evil remains.
On the other hand, Dr. Evil's new sidekick Mini Me is going to be the breakout sensation of the film. Not many people saw THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU a couple of years ago, but there was something hysterical and even surreally touching about the spectacle of Marlon Brando and his little mutant buddy in that film. Mike has managed to reproduce that particular chemistry here to spectacular comic effect. Mini Me, the product of a cloning experiment gone wrong (!!!), brought the house down several times during the film, and deservedly so. He's more than a sight gag. He's a funny character, and it's a good performance by an actor whose name I unfortunately didn't get tonight. Watch for his big fight scene with Austin Powers to be an audience favorite. It certainly was for me.
Dr. Evil, also Myers of course, and his son Scott, played well by Seth Green, both continue to contribute major, major laughs in this film, and they have some amazing scenes together. One of the best is a JERRY SPRINGER appearance early on. Mike in particular is incredible in this scene, embracing the absurdity of his character in this context. Robert Wagner returns as Number Two, with Rob Lowe playing him in the past. Lowe does a remarkable job at nailing Wagner's exact vocal patterns, and his performance is perfect, paying off well during the closing credits. Also returning from the first movie in fine form are Elizabeth Hurley (whose Fembot scene at the beginning is nicely done), Mindy Sterling (as Frau Whatever-Her-Name-Is), Will Ferrell (hysterical again as Mustafa), Michael York, and even minor background characters. Jay Roach has a great eye for comedy detail, and he really packs this frame with a lot to look at. It's nice to see these faces again. It grounds Austin in a particular world. It's a very silly world, and I love it, but most importantly, it's consistent now. They're actually filling it up with recurring characters. New Line definitely wants a franchise out of this.
In the end, of course, the franchise boils down to one man, and he handles himself so well here. Mike Myers is a funny, funny man, and it's good to see him push himself to ridiculous lengths. I don't know if anyone else is as entertained by Dr. Evil as I am, and the film is definitely unbalanced in that they spend far more time with him than with Austin, but I found all of his screen time to be a joy. I also enjoyed every second Heather Graham was onscreen, but for a very different reason. GRRRR, BABY!! She looks incredible as Felicity Shagwell, and I thought she was very funny in the role. I'm learning, though, that there are people in this world who just don't like Heather in anything, and I think she was a problem for many of the people around me. Oh, well... it's not like she'll need to work once she marries me. I am an Evil Genius, after all. I'll provide for my Rollergirl.
I don't really want to get into specifics much because there's a lot that could get ruined about this film -- there's a cameo by a big-name actor as the President that's really funny and the last person you'd expect to see in a film like this. I will say this, though. If you've read the draft of the script that's bouncing around the Internet, toss it away. I read the script almost six months ago, and it was nothing like the final film. The basic structure's the same, but so many of the jokes have been replaced or reworked (to great effect in almost every case) that it doesn't really feel like the same piece of work. Mike must be very free on the set and encourage his actors to be the same way. It's paid off with a worthy sequel and a great comedy.
Now, I have to hand over the floor here to my clone, who just returned to the Labs, so he can describe his reactions to AMERICAN PIE. I guess they're my reactions, too, and I'm sure it's in my voice. I'm just not too clear on the rules to the whole clone thing.
Greetings, all. Moriarty's clone here. I did indeed brave the tourist preserve we call Universal Citywalk to see a screening of the teen summer comedy AMERICAN PIE. I had heard good things about the film already from Harry, Joe, John Robie, and others, and I figured it would be fun. I didn't really have any adventures getting in. I just put the Touch Of Sleep on all who opposed my path to the theater. I also used it on the kid who sat in front of me. I didn't see him bob back up in front of the screen for the rest of the movie, either. This allowed me to focus on the film at hand, directed by Paul Weitz and written by Adam Herz. Kudos to both men for making a teenage sex comedy that also manages to be smart and have a wide streak of sweetness running right down the middle.
I recognized a few faces in the film among the kids -- Tara BIG LEBOWSKI Reid, Alyson BUFFY Hannigan -- but for the most part they were unknown to me, and I don't think I would have wanted it any other way. They all register strongly, and I can't wait until release so I can see the film with credits and get their names. Sorry, guys, but I'll just say that I think you all did great work. Of particular note is the luckless bastard who keeps getting caught by his father (Eugene Levy in a gem of a comic role) during masturbation. This leads to the magazine scene, one which made me hurt from laughing, and a really nice pre-Prom lecture. Levy is wonderful, but any good comic needs someone to work off of, and the kid playing his son is an excellent comic scapegoat. He's the butt of the film's biggest jokes, including the scene that gave the film its title and a very funny sequence involving the Internet.
It's a simple premise for a film -- four friends vow to lose their virginity by Prom -- but somehow it actually gets better as the film progresses. To be quite honest, I thought it started slow, and I was getting ready to write it off when it's as if the entire production took a left turn and just suddenly started making every choice right. By the end, it felt like a really confident film, and it played well. Big laughs all around. Alyson Hannigan has a line that I will literally never forget hearing, a shocker that melted part of my ear. Like The Farrellys, this creative team seems to know that if the audience loves your characters, they'll let you get away with anything. If you're looking for an alternative to the lines (AGAIN) for PHANTOM MENACE during that last weekend in May, then check this one out. You'll be glad you did.
Well... the clone seems to have done a nice job. Sounds like I liked it. I'll be curious to see how Segue Zagnut's review of tonight goes. We actually had a shot at seeing three films at once, but considering how expensive cloning is (and how painful), it didn't seem worth the effort for Disney's RUNAWAY BRIDE. I'm delighted by the choices I made, even if it delayed the end of my ShoWest coverage by another day. I'll be working on that tomorrow. Until then...