AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER
Director: Jay Roach
Cast: Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles, Michael Caine, Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer
MPAA Rating: (for sexual innuendo, crude humor and language)
Running Time: 1:34
Release Date: 7/26/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
In one of the slew of big name cameos in Austin Powers in Goldmember, aging rock and now cult television star Ozzy Osbourne gets the most honest, and therefore one of the funniest, lines in the movie. During a retread of the word-association gag from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, he says something to the effect that the filmmakers "are just using the same jokes from the last Austin Powers movie." This kind of ironic throwaway has been used before as an effort to deter any similar serious criticism of the material. The idea is that such duplication is excusable because the filmmakers are aware of it; in reality, it’s a sign and tool of laziness. Goldmember has a limited but noticeable number of these moments—enough to make us fondly remember how fresh and unexpected Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was and to make us regret the lowbrow path the series began to take in The Spy Who Shagged Me. There’s a lot of good material here, but there’s also a lot of redundancy and unsuccessful crudeness accompanying it.
It’s 2002, and Austin Powers (Mike Myers) has reached a high point in his fame. He’s also succeeded in capturing his archnemesis Dr. Evil (Myers again) while he was in the midst of creating a tractor beam that would pull an asteroid to collide with and flood the Earth. The only problem is that sometime during the celebration after Dr. Evil’s arrest Austin’s father Nigel (Michael Caine) was kidnapped by Goldmember (Myers yet again), Dr. Evil’s co-conspirator on the tractor beam project. The news brings back painful memories of an absentee father for Austin and a chance to finally prove himself to the man who never paid mind to his son’s accomplishments. In exchange for a transfer to a regular prison, Dr. Evil tells Austin that Goldmember is holding his father captive at Studio 69 in 1975. So after a trip back in time, Austin finds Goldmember with the help of club singer Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyoncé Knowles), but Goldmember escapes with his father back to the present to reunite with Dr. Evil who has just escaped from prison.
The movie’s shining moment takes place immediately before the opening credits. Here’s where we learn the extent of Austin’s fame in a cameo-filled opening, which includes the longest on-screen appearance by one of America’s premier filmmakers. Is this sequence intended as a commentary on the way the sudden popularity of the series has the affected their creativity? It’s possible, but once Austin gives in to the frenzy of popularity near the end of the scene, so does the movie. The repetitive jokes have started to wear thin. Note particularly the now perfunctory exchange between Dr. Evil and his son Scott (Seth Green), which in this movie is simply incoherent. The toilet humor that wore down the last installment is back, primarily in an elongated scene involving Myers’ final character transformation, the infamous Fat Bastard. The scatological humor doesn’t stop there, but it only somewhat works in one gag. By "somewhat works" I mean that the joke is funny only because in any other situation than this context (where it’s blatantly pointed out that what’s implied isn’t actually happening), such a scene would never see the light of day.
Most of the supporting cast returns, but most of their roles are now extremely limited to filling in the background. The two most obvious additions to the cast are Michael Caine and R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles. Caine is a remarkably wise choice as Austin’s father, and although the character isn’t developed as much as we’d hope, Caine suits the role perfectly. Knowles follows in the shoes of Elizabeth Hurley and Heather Graham as Powers’ female sidekick and is quite good at capturing the attitude of the Blaxploitation heroines she’s parodying. Foxxy Cleopatra (much like Graham’s character in the second movie) isn’t given any room to develop because she immediately associates herself with Austin. Then there’s Goldmember. If Myers hopes to continue the franchise, he has the right idea with the character but the wrong execution. Adding a new supervillain for each proceeding movie is a solid concept, but Goldmember is simply not an amusing character. The only funny moments come from other characters’ reactions to him, most notably Michael Caine’s spot-on precision in delivering the movie’s best line: "There are two things I hate: People that are intolerant of others because of their cultural background and the Dutch."
I may seem overly critical of Austin Powers in Goldmember, but the truth is, I was entertained by a good deal of it. Most of the problems arise because the franchise is now a big moneymaker. The first film was clever and unafraid, and it became a cult sensation for those reasons. The two sequels suffer from the sudden popularity, but even when the material is lessened by the pressure of being a studio’s commercial enterprise, it’s still quite funny.
Note: Advice to the filmmakers: To avoid the copyright fiasco that plagued the post-production of Goldmember, might I suggest taking a different route to naming the next movie. Try to outdo some of those cryptic and puzzling titles that accompany some of the James Bond movies. Just a suggestion.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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