Austin Powers in Goldmember Reviewby John Sylva (DeWyNGaLe AT aol DOT com)
July 29th, 2002
AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER (2002)
Reviewed by John Sylva
When the biggest laughs in a Mike Myers comedy are elicited by a sextet of Oscar-nominated actors whose combined screen time is less than two minutes, it's no secret that the film in question is compensating for something. That something, in the case of Jay Roach's Austin Powers in Goldmember, is guiltless hilarity. Not that Myers had to dream up anything particularly innovative for the third entry in the Austin Powers trilogy to work, but Goldmember, unlike the sequel The Spy Who Shagged Me and the original International Man of Mystery, not only feels stale but seems to know it as well, as hinted by the needlessly excessive celebrity cameos and the constant repetition of jokes that aren't clever to begin with. Heck, Roach even combines the two with a celebrity cameo that notes this very repetition! Fans of the shagadelic series will likely deem the highly-anticipated comedy a crushing disappointment, which will hopefully lead Myers to understand audiences aren't always that easy to please.
Myers and Michael McCullers follow the same general formula as the predecessors in a script that emphasizes sketch comedy over coherency, toilet jokes above wit--except that the recipe is revived with such an apparent lack of joy the proceedings lose their punch. Goldmember ditches the happy-go-lucky mood achieved by the first two, omitting the humorous dance interludes, the witty banter amongst Dr. Evil and his henchmen, and the presence of any real conflict. Gags like Dr. Evil's plan to take over the world being called "Preparation H" warrant a laugh or two, but the trademark evil empire of the Austin Powers franchise is reduced to a mere caricature, with a horrible Seth Green garnering added screen time and the scene-stealing Mindy Sterling losing much of hers. Fat Bastard (Myers) makes a brief appearance as well in one of the few scenes that seem fit Austin Powers' mold. On the flip side, Evil's arch-enemy Austin Powers has truly lost his mojo this time as the film rarely allows the character to breathe. As his new sidekick, singer Beyonce Knowles may have the Blaxploitation look down pat, yet her Foxxy Cleopatra is a disappointing follow-up to Elizabeth Hurley's Vanessa Kensington and especially to Heather Graham's Felicity Shagwell, whose colorful attitude helped The Spy Who Shagged Me surpass the inaugural picture. An embarrassing Michael Caine also appears as Austin's long-lost father Nigel, a swinging spy himself. The sole charmer is Mini Me (Verne Troyer), who gets a nice bit about his character's becoming a mini-Austin after Dr. Evil disowns him.
What Goldmember doesn't realize, as a character notes on at least one occasion, is that size doesn't matter, especially when it comes to comedy. Reportedly made for $63 million, more than the first two cost to produce combined, the spy spoof attempts to reach maximum extravagance with improved visual effects, vaster set designs, and an increased plot scope. Complexity has never been the hallmark of Austin Powers and while the increased budget and juicier plot could have feasibly helped to make this third outing the charm, dollars and cents and brawn without brain only cause infinite damage here. While a few additions such as Dr. Evil's submarine are welcome, most are either poor executions of relatively decent ideas (such as two third act revelations), or just terrible to begin with, like the Dutch villain Goldmember (also Myers), whose name implies exactly what you think it might. The biggest travesty of all though lies in flashbacks that range from revealing the origins of Austin and Dr. Evil's relationship to how Dr. Evil was adopted, wasting away every ounce of fun that was once held in the ambiguity of the characters.
A bit from The Spy Who Shagged Me perhaps best summarizes the atmosphere of Goldmember: Dr. Evil henchman Mustafa (a sorely missed Will Ferrell) details that he can't stand to be asked the same question three times without answering it, regardless of what top-secret information he might be divulging. Goldmember seems to hold this same attitude as nearly every gag is repeated at least three times. But in this lazy attempt to assemble some sort of consistency in the humor, the film extorts the same aggravated resignation from the viewer that Mustafa felt. In recent interviews, Myers has seemed perfectly content with this chapter and looks forward to doing another, but not even a turnaround fourth film can deafen the blow the series takes from Goldmember. Myers desperately needs something to switch on a light that informs him the charm of Austin Powers is that the finest moments come in the smallest ones. Maybe a good "Shazam!" or two from Foxxy could do the trick.
Film reviewed July 26th, 2002.
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