Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

D: Jay Roach
S: Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles

If you still have not had enough of Austin Powers then you are in for a treat. Austin Powers in Goldmember is the third in the astonishingly successful comedy franchise which has cemented the popularity of former Saturday Night Live comedian Mike Myers (Wayne's World, I Married an Axe Murderer), following Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The basic premise is, was, and always will be that Austin (Myers) is a man out of time, a swinging sixties superspy cryogenically frozen thirty years ago and then defrosted in the late 1990s to continue his eternal battle against arch-nemesis Dr. Evil (Myers again). Most of the humour revolves around sexual innuendo and inappropriate behaviours, poking a finger in the eye of contemporary taste in the name of a retro vibe which works well in small doses. In spite of the success of now three films, the entire franchise is much the same as any Saturday Night Live spinoff (The Ladies Man) in that a gimmick character is given an entire film to carry. With the benefit of an ability to consistently generate new characters to support the premise, the specific references to the familiar conventions of the James Bond franchise and a seemingly boundless supply of farcical energy, Myers has managed to get away with beating this one joke to death through three features, a feat which is worthy of some kind of plaudit. It should be noted tough there is still nothing to these films that we do not see within ten minutes of the start of the first, and by the time Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery had drawn to a close, I certainly had had enough of him. Not so the general public, and so, for the third time, we are presented with an endless stream of sex jokes, gross-out scenes and sight gags, all wrapped around the general premise of spy spoofery and making fun of the styles and attitudes of previous decades. It is much the same gig done much the same way. The film is funnier than the last one, quicker than the first, and so probably the best of the three, but whether or not this matters to you is something you will need to decide for yourself.

The plot has Austin going head to head with Dr. Evil again, only this time Evil has drafted in yet more evil supporting characters to freshen the palette. The most important is the eponymous Goldmember, a 1970s Dutch night club owner obsessed with gold and with a penchant for peeling off flakes of his dry skin and eating them. Yes. Anyway, there's a stock plot about a plan to destroy the world, but really the film is just scene after scene of comic-book action comedy as Myers reels gag after gag out of his characters in a variety of settings. Adding a touch of confusion is Michael Caine in the role of Austin's long-lost dad, himself a superspy and a no-show at all of Austin's most important moments. A touch of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade perhaps, but taken none too seriously (although this character twist does provide the film with its bizarre resolution). The love interest is provided by pop star Beyoncé Knowles as "Foxxy Cleopatra", a 1970s afro-chick full of funk and attitude and good for a laugh. Returning to their various subsidiary roles are Michael York, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Stirling, and diminutive Verne Troyer as Dr. Evil's clone "mini-me".

Essentially, the film sets all of these characters in motion and lets them rip. Myers and co-writer Michael McCullers simply generate gags based on the basic character dynamics and put them on screen. The plot pops up now and then to offer the pretence of a story, then disappears for long stretches as musical numbers, action set pieces, lengthy comic exchanges, and various other bits and pieces of business are played out. The actors approach it all with plenty of gusto, there are no false notes in terms of the world of the film, and it all delivers on the level expected. Fans will enjoy it because it is very much more of the same. Non fans will not be converted because it is all very much more of the same.

For a series which is one endless bad joke at which you can't help laughing, the Austin Powers franchise has now gotten to such heights that it can command a huge plethora of cameo appearances. In addition to the cast who actually do something, there are appearances by Tom Cruise, Gwynneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Danny De Vito, John Travolta, Britney Spears, Steven Spielberg, and Ozzy Osbourne and family. Poor Fred Savage (TV's The Wonder Years) also makes an extended appearance, but our and the characters' attentions are all focused on a prominent mole which almost makes you miss the actor. These cameos contribute to a mood of complete tongue-in-cheek which is absolutely necessary, and in a sense its determined escapism is intended to be, and is, an antidote to the self-serious variety of romantic comedy and action film. Whether this noble purpose is adequately served by three (count 'em: three) of these films is another question. God help us if they move to a fourth.

Review by Harvey O'Brien PhD. copyright 2002.