Should I Watch..? 'Austin Powers In Goldmember' (2002)
What's the big deal?
Austin Powers In Goldmember is an action comedy spy film released in 2002 and is the third (and so far final) instalment of the Austin Powers series. The movie once again sees creator Mike Myers plays Austin, a out-of-touch super spy from the Sixties as well as his arch nemesis Dr Evil. The film also stars Michael Caine, Verne Troyer, Michael York and Seth Green as well as giving singer Beyoncé Knowles her full cinematic debut. The film also contains numerous cameos from a number of celebrities including Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, the Osbournes and Quincy Jones. The film took just over $295 million worldwide, less than the second film in the series The Spy Who Shagged Me, and the long-delayed fourth film has been in development hell ever since.
What's it about?
Back in the present day, Dr Evil has reunited with his old running gang and explains the gist of his next great scheme. He plans to travelling back in time to 1975 and recruit Dutch master criminal Johan Van Der Smut - known as Goldmember - and bring him to the present along with his tractor beam technology which Dr Evil will use to attract a meteor to crash into the polar ice-caps and flood the Earth. Unfortunately, Austin Powers and British Intelligence arrive and arrest Dr Evil before he can initiate this plan. At his knighting ceremony, Austin is upset to find his father absent and it soon transpires that Nigel Powers has been kidnapped by Goldmember in 1975.
Travelling back to 1975, Austin heads to Goldmember's club and reunites with old flame and undercover FBI agent Foxxy Cleopatra. After Goldmember escapes with Nigel via the time machine, Austin and Foxxy return to the present to apprehend Goldmember and rescue Nigel. But back at the prison where Dr Evil and Mini-Me are being held, two escapees manage to evade recapture and head for their secret base in Tokyo. Guess who?
What's to like?
Amid the recycling of old material from the first two films and frequently repeated gags and catchphrases, there are some interesting ideas here that suggests Austin Powers In Goldmember might have been a winner. Seth Green is finally given something to do for the first time in the series, stepping out of the stroppy teenager stereotype and becoming a possible future villain should the series ever be restarted. Beyoncé is surprisingly game as Foxxy Cleopatra although her comic timing needs some work. And the film's garish styling does evoke a strong Seventies vibe, albeit not Britain in the Seventies. The only place that colourful at the time would have been the set for Top Of The Pops.
The film also has probably the best opening in the series so far with a trailer for a film-within-a-film directed by Steven Spielberg and cast with a whole host of famous faces. I know that cameos are the last refuge of a comedy running out of material but it actually works quite well. Certainly anyone who thoroughly enjoyed the first two films will enjoy this loose collection of scenes based around bodily functions, non-stop cameos and the now-familiar mocking of Sixties counter-culture and spy films.
- The song that Dr Evil and Mini-Me perform in jail is a version of Hard Knock Life by Jay-Z. Beyoncé Knowles would, of course, go on to marry Jay-Z in 2008.
- Kristen Johnston, who played Ivana Humpalot in The Spy Who Shagged Me, has an uncredited cameo as one of the dancers at Austin's pad in London.
- Myers stated that Austin's glasses were a reference to Caine's character Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File. Caine still had the original frames and so decided to wear them on set as Nigel.
What's not to like?
Over time, the Austin Powers film have gotten lazier and this tired third film is the laziest of the lot. The film lifts whole sections from both of its much funnier predecessors and does so that often that even Ozzy Osbourne can spot the reheated leftovers in his cameo. They've also gotten more puerile - the unwelcome return of Fat Bastard is a non-stop rodeo of bad taste which doesn't sit well with me whatsoever. Caine's appearance feels like valediction for Myers and is symptomatic of the film's utter desperation to fill out its running time with something other than tired material and pointless cameos.
At times, it's almost as embarrassing as Myers' later effort The Love Guru - what exactly is funny about mocking a man with a mole on his face? This is playground humour of the lowest sort and frankly, his audience deserves better. It's easy to blame Myers for this as he runs himself into the ground playing all four principal roles - Austin suddenly feels as old-fashioned as the character itself, Dr Evil's goodwill is gradually running thin and Fat Bastard is an idea that shouldn't have survived for a second film. But the worst is Goldmember, a bizarre creation who only seems to be funny because he's Dutch. If I came from the Netherlands, I'd be more than offended by this.
Should I watch it?
I can't escape the feeling that like Goldmember's shiny body art, this film is a horrid, gold-plated disappointment. It needed stronger scripting (the story makes no sense at all) and stronger material to become a worthwhile film in its own right. As it is, it's a lazy collection of highlights from the first two films strung together with a nonsensical plot and dozens of unfunny cameos. I suspect the material had simply ran dry at this point but surely someone should have stopped Myers' ego from ruining the franchise.
Great For: fans of toilet humour, undemanding fans of the first two films, anyone who can't get enough of Mike Myers, celebrity spotters
Not So Great For: a paying audience, anyone hoping for original comedy, grown ups
What else should I watch?
As is often the case when the Law Of Diminishing Returns applies, it's far better to stick with the first film. Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery had much more thought behind it than either of its sequels and is much funnier as a result. It's much more than a spoofing of early James Bond films and Myers doesn't give himself a hernia playing all the major characters himself for once. It also lacks the self-awareness of the sequels, which helps no end.
Spy films aren't that hard to spoof - in fact, you could argue that Bond himself tried to with the endlessly self-referencing Die Another Day. It's safe to say that the best spoofs are the early works of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker - films like Airplane! and The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad! are still revered as comic milestones and brought the world the wonderfully po-faced Leslie Nielsen. And to be honest, you won't find much better parody movies than these.
Austin Powers / Dr Evil / Fat Bastard / Goldmember
Mike Myers & Michael McCullers *
Release Date (UK)
26th July, 2002
Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Spy
© 2015 Benjamin Cox