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Austin Powers in Goldmember   D

New Line Cinema

Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Jay Roach
Writers: Mike Myers, Michael McCullers
Cast: Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles, Michael Caine, Verne Troyer, Michael York, Seth Green, Robert Wagner.

Review by Rob Vaux

Behold, the law of diminishing returns! When a cute-but-slight idea is pushed beyond all reasonable expectations, it can become a monster. Case in point: the reasonably funny Austin Powers, which was a huge hit on video, prompting the fairly unfunny Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and now the very unfunny Goldmember, a would-be comedy with nice moments and dreadful half-hours. Myers' amusing conceit of a British secret agent with bad teeth and an unquenchable libido has long since run its course, but Goldmember would have you believe otherwise. Liz Hurley was smart to cut out when she did.

For this third go 'round, Myers and director Jay Roach have turned to a grab-bag approach: throwing a random assortment of gags up on the screen and hoping that they somehow stick. So we have Myers' snaggletoothed Austin attempting to thwart another nefarious scheme by Dr. Evil (also Myers), a new villain in the form of the roller-discoing title character (Myers again), an extended father-son tiff with Austin's dad (Michael Caine), prison jokes, musical numbers, and some truly repugnant material involving Dr. Evil's clone, Mini-Me (Verne Troyer). Let it never be said that they're not trying hard to amuse us. Unfortunately, the rapid-fire approach never comes off; the resulting pastiche is sad, confusing... and most importantly, laugh-free. The original Austin Powers did marvels with its fish-out-of-water concept, taking a '60s-era superspy and dropping him into the decidedly ungroovy late '90s. Goldmember clings tenuously to that gag, sending Austin briefly back to the '70s where he can strut around in platform shoes and pick up some new characters. Yet there's not enough meat there to last long, and the filmmakers soon abandon it in favor of another routine... and another... and another. Each of them has just enough humorous potential to keep Roach and Myers from laying off, yet few of them are even remotely inspired, and the slapdash nature of the proceedings robs them of any coherence.

Occasionally, a genuinely amusing moment pokes through. The credits sequence sports a host of inspired cameos, falsely promising great things to come. Caine displays a fine sense of humor and Seth Green is always funny as Dr. Evil's estranged son Scott. But more often than not, the stench of desperation overwhelms the proceedings. Lame gags like a satellite shaped like a giant bra, penises glowing bright yellow, and the now-exhausted postmodern elbow to the ribs bury the film's fleeting high points. Nothing lingers long enough to register, and the jokes are thrown out with such slapdash abandon that barely one in 20 elicits more than stony silence. At one point, the characters are actually spouting gibberish at each other: no dialogue, no physical gags, just a string of kooky-sounding syllables that the filmmakers hope will get us to snicker. Myers is too good a comedian to fall back on such flailing.

You can sense missed opportunities as well, none more apparent than the leading lady. Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyoncé Knowles), a riff on Pam Grier blaxploitation roles, has the potential to be very funny. Knowles exhibits a decent sense of timing and her ridiculously huge Afro might have made for some terrific sight gags. But she spends most of the movie just standing around, flashing her cleavage and mouthing a series of stock '70s catchphrases. There could have been something very clever there, but Myers and Roach ignore it. Perhaps they thought jokes about shit would connect better with the audience.

The Austin Powers series has seemingly reach critical mass, and people will clearly flock to these movies regardless of content. It's sad that a guaranteed winner would elicit such a poor effort from the creative people involved. We're gonna go see it, boys; please don't insult our good faith by taking us for granted. As if the corporate nature of this endeavor weren't enough, a series of product tie-ins stick their greasy fingers whenever they get a chance. Surely this franchise has made enough money by now to do without such brazen advertising. I might have forgiven them had they made me laugh a little more, but in that all-important measuring stick, Goldmember comes up depressingly short. It doesn't matter which decade you're in -- flop sweat is never shagadelic, baby.

Review published 07.29.2002.

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