No, Baby: Humor Stays Undercover in ‘Goldmember’
Everyone likes the idea of Austin Powers, but the actuality of “Austin Powers in Goldmember” is a lot harder to take.
The swinging 1970s London spy with the “yeah, baby, yeah” attitude is a clever conceit, and the gifted Mike Myers’ passion to play him, his arch nemesis, Dr. Evil, plus assorted other bad guys has made this James Bond-Harry Palmer parody so popular that some of Hollywood’s biggest stars agreed to appear in “Goldmember.”
These major players can be seen in the film’s opening sequence, taking the parts of Austin, Dr. Evil, Mini-Me and others in the putative big-studio version of an Austin movie--creating what is, in effect, a spoof of a spoof.
New Line Cinema has asked the media not to ruin the joke by revealing the names of these heavyweights, even going so far as handing out a picture of Dr. Evil emblazoned with the slogan “Zip It!” at the film’s main press screening. That wish will be respected here because it’d be a shame to ruin what turns out to be the only consistently funny part of this third Austin extravaganza. Long after the glamorous heavyweights have packed up and gone on to their A-list careers, the audience is left to slog through a wearying hit-and-miss affair that gradually disintegrates under the weight of what might be a world-record number of scatological references and bodily function jokes.
Although “Goldmember” is directed by Jay Roach, who did the honors on the first two, its guiding light is clearly Myers, who co-wrote (with Michael McCullers), co-produced and played four roles.
Myers’ idea of a movie turns out to be similar to Ed Sullivan’s idea for a variety show: Toss in a little bit of everything and hope for the best. There are songs, there are dances, there is action, there are well-known co-stars (Michael Caine, Fred Savage of TV’s “The Wonder Years”) and there are, of course, a lot of girls.
There are also attempts at humor, some of which are actually funny. Myers throws himself into his numerous parts with considerable gusto and occasional success. A scene of Dr. Evil and alter-ego Mini-Me (Verne Troyer) joining a bunch of cons in a riff on rapper Jay-Z’s version of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from “Annie” is as boggling as it sounds.
Even some of the stunt casting is amusing if you’re in on the joke. The part of Mr. Roboto, an evil Japanese businessman, is played by top L.A. restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa. “We cast Nobu,” Myers says in the press notes, at least half-seriously, “because if it was 8 o'clock on Saturday night and we wanted to go to Matsuhisa, which is always packed, we’d still be able to get a table. We’re not idiots. It’s the best food on the planet.”
The only thing that won’t make you laugh, unless you’ve got a 12-year-old’s sense of humor, is the film’s tireless parade of gross-out gags and scatological verbal jests. Myers gets a charge out of this material--it wouldn’t be here if he didn’t--but so much of it is so tedious it’s difficult to believe an adult actually sat down and wrote it.
“Goldmember’s” plot, such as it is, involves the criminal machinations of Johann van der Smut (Myers, again), a criminal mastermind who “lost his genitalia in an unfortunate smelting accident” and has had it replaced by the precious metal. Joining forces with Dr. Evil, he plans--no surprise here--to destroy the world unless you know who can stop him.
You know who, however, has problems of his own, especially the degree to which his celebrated secret-agent father, Nigel Powers (Caine), has no respect for him. Dr. Evil is having family difficulties as well, as a sibling rivalry breaks out again between Mini-Me and the evil one’s natural son, Scott (Seth Green).
Fitting in here somewhere is Beyonce Knowles of Destiny’s Child, making her big-screen debut as the Pam Grier-influenced FBI agent Foxxy Cleopatra. Knowles has a pleasant screen presence, but has difficulty overcoming the film’s conception of her as an afterthought in a gold bikini.
Perhaps the most surprising information in the “Goldmember” press material is Myers’ contention that “broad comedy is as legitimate and valid a delivery system for expansive, spiritual ideas as any other art form.” Maybe and maybe not, but anyone finding anything spiritual in “Goldmember” is invited to join Myers for dinner at Matsuhisa. It’s likely to be a very small group.
MPAA rating: PG-13, for sexual innuendo, crude humor and language. Times guidelines: nonstop bathroom humor.
‘Austin Powers in Goldmember’
Mike Myers...Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, Goldmember, Fat Bastard
Beyonce Knowles...Foxxy Cleopatra
Seth Green...Scott Evil
Michael York...Basil Exposition
Robert Wagner...Number Two
A Gratitude International, Team Todd/Moving Pictures production, released by New Line Cinema. Director Jay Roach. Producers John Lyons, Mike Myers, Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Demi Moore, Eric McLeod. Executive producers Toby Emmerich, Richard Brenner. Screenplay Mike Myers & Michael McCullers. Cinematographer Peter Deming. Editor Jon Poll, Greg Hayden. Costumes Denna Appel. Music George S. Clinton. Production design Rusty Smith. Supervising art director Mark Worthington. Set decorator Sara Andrews-Ingrassia. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.
In general release.