Austin Powers In Goldmember

on July 26, 2002 by Wade Major
The Austin Powers movies have always been an exercise in hit-and-miss comedy - giddy grab-bags of broad parody, clever sight gags, juvenile bathroom humor, leftover Saturday Night Live sketch material and just about anything else that Mike Myers and his collaborators can think of. Some of the bits stick, others don't. Fortunately, the franchise has managed to stick enough of them often enough to keep audiences blissfully happy with the concept. Though the hotly-anticipated third outing, "Austin Powers in Goldmember," deviates a bit more from the spirit of that concept, it holds the line on overall silliness, staying sufficiently inventive and offbeat to guarantee not only comparable success to its predecessors, but an inevitable fourth film as well.

The plot of the film is roughly the same as it's always been--Austin fights Dr. Evil (Myers plays both parts) and his clan, taking detours wherever possible to either time-travel or indulge in the most ridiculous antics imaginable. The second film, "The Spy Who Shagged Me," added yet another villain--also played by Myers--in the form of the obese Scotsman Fat Bastard. And though Fat Bastard returns in "Goldmember" (New Line finally secured permission to use the title after some eleventh-hour dealing with James Bond series distributor MGM), that hasn't dissuaded Myers from adding a fourth character to his arsenal, the titular and aptly-named Goldmember. An obsessive gold-lover who possesses, among other attributes, gilded privates, Goldmember is a giggly Dutch disco maven who likes to eat the flakes of his own skin. He's also a perfect partner for Dr. Evil to attempt, yet again, something cataclysmically diabolical. Only this time they tread on personal ground with Austin by kidnapping his famous spy father, Nigel (Michael Caine), and touching off long-repressed parent-child issues in the otherwise cool and collected superspy. Precisely where that seemingly obvious story thread leads, however, is anything but obvious and often quite funny.

The time travel element is back again, too, though only briefly. Journeying not to his native '60s but to the even tackier '70s, where Goldmember has taken his father, Austin reteams with onetime love Foxxy Cleopatra ("Destiny's Child" frontwoman Beyonc‚ Knowles) to liberate his dad and, yet again, save the world.

Because the movie returns with almost all of the previous characters from the first two films--including Scott Evil, Mini Me, Number Two, Frau Farbissina--the addition of even more new characters makes it feels unusually cramped. Though that's not a bad thing--it results in a richer and denser barrage of gags and bits--it also means there's less focus on such things as Austin's "mojo." Fans led by advertising to expect a film set almost entirely in the '70s will also be disappointed, as that interlude lasts only a few minutes. Overall, though, "Austin Powers in Goldmember" delivers precisely what its predecessors did: wall-to-wall comedy of a sort found only in the mind of Mike Myers. And the supporting cast is, indeed, wonderful. Caine is at his level-best playing Powers-pŠre, and Knowles, in her film debut, not only honors '70s action queen Pam Grier, on whom her character is based, but proves herself much more than simply a beautiful and curvaceous songbird. She is the most delightful surprise in the film, a far better companion for Powers than either Heather Graham or Elizabeth Hurley.

The comedy divides itself equally between nostalgia references, present-day pop culture jabs, traditional parody and inspired lunacy--some of it of the gross-out variety and much of it clever enough to earn rightful comparisons to Jacques Tati. In short, there's something for everyone who loves to laugh. Starring Mike Myers, Beyonc‚ Knowles, Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer and Michael Caine. Directed by Jay Roach. Written by Mike Myers and Michael McCullers. Produced by Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Demi Moore, Eric McLeod, John Lyons and Mike Myers. A New Line release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual innuendo, crude humor and language. Running time: 95 min

Tags: Beyonce Knowles, Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Michael Caine, Demi Moore, crude, Mike Myers, Jay Roach, Suzanne Todd, sex, satire, spoof, spy, time travel, period piece

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