Austin Powers in Goldmember Review

by Jon Popick (jpopick AT sick-boy DOT com)
July 24th, 2002

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The bad news: Austin Powers in Goldmember is the weakest of the franchise's three installments. The good news: The spy send-up is much, much funnier than first-run versions of recent spoofs like Scary Movie 2 and Not Another Teen Movie. In fact, I'm completely amazed that Mike Myers and crew are able to milk this many laughs from material that should be pretty stale by now. The three films have all featured the same jokes over and over again, and you'd think they would have had the life shagged out of them at this point, but they still seem pretty fresh (at least as far as dick and shit jokes go).

The ideas that worked in the first two films - International Man of Mystery and The Spy Who Shagged Me - work in Goldmember (from the characters to the nonsensical plot to the delightfully disgusting sight gags), yet most of the new additions fall very flat. In addition to casting himself as the titular Powers, nemesis Dr. Evil and the fecally obsessed Fat Bastard, Myers also plays the latest villain, Goldmember, a Jewish-sounding Dutch super-genius with an actual gold member. He's not that funny at all, and his character is pretty unnecessary to the film's plot, which involves more time travel, more sexual innuendo and more chances for Myers to mug to the camera like a crazed Bill Cosby. It's getting to be a little too much. Why doesn't he just play every character?

In addition to Goldfinger, we're also introduced to Powers' super-spy father, played by Michael Caine, who phones in his performance from somewhere around the Liverpool area. Caine was cast for two reasons: 1) The Powers character is based, at least in part, on Caine's Harry Palmer films (The Ipcress Files, Funeral in Berlin, Billion Dollar Brain); and 2) they couldn't get Sean Connery. Caine's character also drives a Mini, just like he did in The Italian Job.

The latest Powers girl is tough-talking Foxxy Cleopatra (Destiny's Child's Beyoncé Knowles), an amalgamation of Pam Grier's Foxy Brown and Tamara Dobson's Cleopatra Jones. Knowles gets little to do, other than shout "Shazam!" every once in a while (she's so un-tough, a sideways glance from Grier would probably make her burst into tears). The fall-off in Powers girls is enough to make you long for Elizabeth Hurley (and that's pretty messed up).

There's also a big deal being made about the secret cameo appearances in Goldmember, which the studio has begged preview audiences not to reveal (they even provided a colorful handout on the way into the theatre, politely asking viewers to keep mum). This may be the biggest load of horseshit I've ever heard. You can find the "secret" cameos listed on both Yahoo! and the Internet Movie Database, and they were all reported in Variety last December - unless the studio is talking about Susanna Hoffs, Katie Couric and Clint Howard (Oops! Did I give it away?). Most of the big cameos come in the first five minutes, which are the worst five minutes in the Powers franchise. Soon, the celebrities give way to a nauseating amount of product placement.

There's plenty more to whine about (Jesus, it's starting to sound like I didn't enjoy the film, which isn't at all true), like the repeated jokes about a mole on the lip of a character played by Fred Savage. John Candy sufficiently rubbed that gag into the dirt back in Uncle Buck. Goldmember also offers more flat jokes than the first two films combined. Then again, the percentage of them that work is still higher than anything that Freddie Prinze, Jr. has ever been in. In addition to the familiar bits, like the mistake-the-shadow-for-something-obscene scene, we get a funny Silence of the Lambs spoof and a nicely conceived bit on reading white subtitles on a white background. Like the second film, we see younger versions of the characters in flashbacks, and that also works very well. Most of the low-brow, high-success-rate gags come in the last reel, and they're nearly good enough to make you forget about the slow start and stupid cameos.
1:29 - PG-13 for sexual innuendo, crude humor and language

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