Austin Powers in Goldmember

WFTB Score: 6/20

The plot: Despite his incarceration, Dr Evil brings back a colleague in evil called Goldmember from the 1970s to hold the present to ransom with his fearsome, meteorite-attracting invention – Preparation H. Britain’s grooviest spy, Austin Powers, is on his trail, but his attention is diverted by the charms of Foxy Cleopatra and the disappearance of his even groovier father.

If it is a truth generally acknowledged that sequels are rarely better than their begetters, the same goes double for comedy, making 1999’s The Spy who Shagged me a rare beast indeed, despite some complaints that it gave too much space to gross-out humour at the expense of lampooning Bond and his ilk. Could the third instalment in the burgeoning franchise buck all trends and be the best of the bunch?

Things begin promisingly in dashing Mission:Impossible fashion with a helicopter gunship and motorbike chase, with Tom Cruise as Austin Powers and Kevin Spacey as Dr Evil in a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. However, once this entertainingly star-studded credits sequence has finished, things quickly take a turn for the worse.

The plot, such as it is, sees Dr Evil (Mike Myers, in one of four roles) still with Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), plotting to hold the world to ransom with the assistance of unfortunate Dutchman Goldmember (Myers). Austin Powers (Myers again) captures Evil early on, but relaxes his security in exchange for the information that Goldmember, a flaky roller-skating character with a precious asset, is hiding Austin Powers’ father Nigel (Michael Caine) in a 1975 disco.

Austin has issues with his father, not least that he missed his crowning as International Man of Mystery at school (which we see in flashback), and these issues are not improved when Nigel is rescued and proves to be even more shagadelic than his son. Nonetheless, with the help of undercover Agent Foxy Cleopatra (Beyoncé Knowles), Powers and Mini-Me (persuaded to change sides when Seth Green’s Scott Evil starts living up to his name) battle Fat Bastard (Myers’ final incarnation) and other random henchmen to find Dr Evil in his secret underwater lair.

In Austin’s previous outings, the plot ripped off enough storylines from Bond films to fuel the jokes and keep the action moving at a brisk pace; here, however, it is treated as very much a side issue to the characters. Austin himself is now pretty familiar to us, so Myers is naturally more interested in his villains; unfortunately, whilst he can be funny, he’s no Peter Sellers or Alec Guinness, and the characterisations are all pretty similar beneath the make-up.

There are several overlong and indulgent scenes, including Dr Evil’s first, where Myers (playing against himself) does not have much for the characters to do but engage in childish verbal jousting, most of which would surely have ended up on the cutting room floor had meatier material been available. Elsewhere, the film veers uncertainly between wee and fart jokes, gentle parody and outright spoof, with wirework people standing by for Fat Bastard’s stunts and a subtitles gag that brings back memories of Wayne’s World.

The film’s few good gags (such as Fred Savage’s mole with a mole) are done to death, as are the bad ones – Fat Bastard’s sequence in Tokyo really stinks, in every sense – and there is a self-consciousness about everything having been done before, attested to by a redundant appearance (not that they have any other kind) by the Osbournes. Desperation is marked by a lame Jay-Z parody (that couple did well out of the movie, if nobody else did) and an “I can see your/you’re nuts” joke that was old when it featured in Kentucky Fried Movie. Never mind that the film peters out to a pretty lame and obvious conclusion.

Apart from Myers, the acting is adequate, with Robert Wagner and Mindy Sterling sidelined in favour of Myers’ new creations and Beyoncé having a beautiful face, voice and body but very little chemistry or attitude, the latter especially disappointing given the Blaxploitation possibilities implied in her character’s name. The star of the show is Caine, effortlessly showing up Myers’ faux London accent as he dominates every scene he’s in; he is utterly believable as Austin’s ultra-suave father and very funny with it. Look out too for a brief appearance by future Heroes star Masi Oka in a good joke about copyright laws.

The film fitfully hits the target and it’s clear that Myers likes his characters and their mannerisms; however, he fails to keep his humour fresh or disciplined, and fails to project it out to the audience. For this reason, Goldmember will only really appeal to the most forgiving of Mike’s fans.

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