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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Austin Powers in Goldmember (review)

Live and Let Shag

He’s back. And you either find him groovy, or you don’t. If you don’t, there’s not much point in checking out Austin Powers in Goldmember, because it’s all the same old stuff. But you dig his schtick, then yeah, baby!

It’s been a strange path I’ve journeyed upon with the International Man of Mystery: I didn’t quite get (at first) the giggly spoofiness of the original when I first saw it (on video), loved the second one, and was seriously geeked for Goldmember. Maybe Austin will wear out his welcome after his fourth outing — invariably to be called License to Shag or Thunderballs or something — but we’ll deal with that a few summers from now.
There’s some more smashingly time travel, here back to the 1970s, which allows Austin (Mike Myers: Shrek, Mystery, Alaska) to hang out with the blaxploitation chick Foxxy Cleopatra (the downright adorable Beyoncé Knowles) in a roller disco and drive around in a pimp mobile. Gold lamé is involved. Preprogrammed hilarity ensues. We’ve seen it all before, and it’s still frickin’ funny.

Pretty much all pretense of parodying Bond and Secret Agent and all things 60s and spy has been dispensed with, which, ironically, is part of what makes Goldmember naughty fun. It’s just all about Austin now — he’s a force unto himself. The teaser trailer — the one featuring Verne Troyer as Mini-Austin, replicating the opening sequence of the first Austin flick in miniature — proposed the concept that Austin himself was worth parodying, and did so in a stunningly silly way, one that made me suspect I should be offended on behalf of little people everywhere. But I laughed like a hyena instead. The opening sequence of Goldmember continues the theme and is worth the price of admission alone for its sheer lack of taking itself seriously. In fact, if Hollywood showed this kind of goofy exuberance more often, we’d all be a lot better off.

Honestly, how seriously can you take a movie about a penis in the first place? Most movies are about penises, on one level or another, but this one doesn’t pretend not to be, and you have to give Mike Myers 1000 bonus points for that. Goldmember (also played by Myers, as are about 95 percent of the roles in all the Austin flicks) is the bad guy here, and he really does have a, you know, made of, well, gold. I’m not really sure why. But it’s funny, because it’s so insanely good-natured. Myers (and director Jay Roach) may be the only filmmaker making movies full of toilet jokes and sexual humor who actually seems to have a grip on how absurd this whole life thing is.

Ya get the feeling, though, that maybe Myers has had enough of Austin and Dr. Evil and the gang — he wraps things up, all of it: the superspy/archvillain codependency between Austin and Evil, the depraved father/son relationship between Evil and Scott (the always sublime Seth Green: America’s Sweethearts, Enemy of the State), the sibling rivalry between Scott and Mini-Me (Troyer: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). Austin himself even resolves some issues with his own dad, Sir Nigel Powers, who’s played by Michael Caine (Quills, The Cider House Rules), which brings the Austin series full circle: Caine’s 1960s Harry Palmer character was one of Myers’ inspirations for Austin. Maybe there’s nowhere else for Austin or Dr. Evil to go, and nowhere for Myers to take them.

On the other hand, Myers is fairly ingenious. Maybe we’ll get to see Thunderballs after all.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual innuendo, crude humor and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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