Mike Myers, star and co-writer of "Austin Powers in Goldmember," can create such paroxysms of sheer tastelessness and obnoxiousness that you wonder if he'll survive his own movies.
But he does.
"Goldmember" is the third of his "Austin Powers" series -- that string of cheerfully offensive James Bond spoofs about the dentally challenged, fatuously flirtatious "shagadelic" transplanted '60s British superspy-rock star-fashion king Powers -- and it's just as much of a happy mess as the other two. It's a shapeless, derivative-but-funny show with another loony parody plot about super-villain Dr. Evil (Myers) joining with the evil Goldmember (also Myers) to battle Austin (Myers yet again) as all three zip in and out of the last five decades.
There are new characters like Goldmember, blaxploitation goddess and Pam Grier clone Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles of Destiny's Child) and Austin's dashing dad Nigel Powers (Michael Caine) -- and almost all the old guys (from Robert Wagner's dour Number Two to Verne Troyer's diminutive Mini Me) get reprised. A big loud movie that seems to be drowning in a sea of lewd, crude gags and satire, it nevertheless made me laugh.
Laughter can help you excuse almost anything. And in this movie, like the other two, there's a lot to excuse: the most gargantuan sight-gag about flatulence ever attempted, political incorrectness and double entendres galore, and so many riffs on perversion, excrement and bodily functions that "Goldmember" often plays like a copy of Jokes for the John edited by Benny Hill and the Marquis De Sade.
But obnoxiousness and tastelessness can actually be virtues in comedy -- especially the low comedy you mostly find in "Goldmember" -- and Myers knows how far to push them. One reason for the huge popularity of the Powers movies may be that very hammering crudity and seemingly artless shtick. Though much of the audience may share Myers' nostalgia for the super cool Bond-Beatles-and-"Blowup" era, they probably also love seeing Myers pull that era's high style down into the mucky sleaze-TV look of nostalgia shows today. There's a cheapness about the Powers movies that's probably part of their appeal -- even though this one is chockfull of swank set-pieces, they're like Bond films that degenerate into beer brawls -- with Myers' versatility providing the real style. If Myers lacks the late Peter Sellers' brilliant finesse in multiple roles, he does share Seller's exuberant variety and total immersion.
Goldmember -- who is apparently inspired by murderous gold-lover Auric Goldfinger from the 1964 James Bond thriller -- is Myers' most nauseating creation: a pasty-faced double-jointed Belgian sadist crime czar who has a golden rod in place of his own missing member (lost in an accident) and is given to peeling off his own flaking skin and eating it. He's also the least funny of the four -- partly because Myers doesn't even try to duplicate the genial sadism and brutal savoir faire of the original Goldfinger, Gert Frobe.
The movie has one tremendous advantage though: the presence of Michael Caine as Austin's father, Nigel Powers. In the '60s, Caine played Bond's chief British rival: Harry Palmer, the bespectacled Cockney spy of the Len Deighton-derived series that began with "The Ipcress File." He also played London rake "Alfie," a movie that "Goldmember" repeatedly references. Caine here is fitted with Austin-style bad teeth and it's suggested that his paternal shortcomings drove Austin to his "Yeah baby" life of sex-mad intrigue. But he also brings that old Cockney mix of insolent charm and abrasive humor. It's a very stylish performance -- even when the writing seems to have no style at all.
There's another plus: the best and funniest batch of star cameos so far this year -- largely due to the lineup Myers and director Jay Roach assemble for their opening "Austin Powers" movie-within-a-movie. New Line Cinema has asked that critics cloak the cameo identities, but we can reveal that they include one female and two male superstar actors, another multiple Oscar actor, one winner of an all-time TV Guide TV character poll, one superstar TV anchor, two superstar composers, one superstar rock singer, Broadway's biggest musical comedy star and the most popular filmmaker in the world, shown waving one of his two Oscars.
"Goldfinger" was the best of all the Bonds. But "Goldmember" -- a comedy about sexual desperation which sends up movie fantasies of ultimate sexual power -- probably isn't the best of the Powers cycle, even though it's the plushest looking. Indeed the whole idea of "best" and "worst" may be meaningless applied to these pictures. Myers as always, has the last laugh -- four of them, in fact.
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
"Austin Powers in Goldmember"
Directed by Jay Roach; written by Mike Myers, Michael McCullers; photographed by Peter Deming; edited by Jon Poll, Greg Hayden; production designed by Rusty Smith; music by George S. Clinton; produced by Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Demi Moore, Eric McLeod, John Lyons, Myers. A New Line Cinema release; opens Friday, July 26. Running time: 1:34. MPAA rating: PG-13 (sexual innuendo, crude humor and language).
Austin Powers/Dr. Evil/Goldmember/Fat Bastard -- Mike Myers
Foxxy Cleopatra -- Beyonce Knowles
Nigel Powers -- Michael Caine
Basil Exposition -- Michael York
Scott Evil -- Seth Green
Number Two -- Robert Wagner Mini Me -- Verne Troyer
Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune Movie Critic.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times