As amazing as the prerelease hoopla over the third “Austin Powers” is the fact that the picture succeeds in living up to it. Not since the heyday of Fellini, I dare say, has there been such a merrygoround of a movie.
For the past two or three weeks everywhere one looked there was Mike Myers. Ted Turner’s networks played the first two films. And played them. Talk shows morning, noon and night interviewed the new movie’s cast and ran clips. Newspapers and magazines did “Goldmember” features. Bravo dragged out the installment of “Inside The Actor’s Studio” featuring His Grooviness. MTV and VH1 hosted him and ran AP-related music videos. Everyone in the media wanted a piece of the party.
Though party’s not quite the right word anymore. The release of a
new “Austin Powers” film has come to assume the significance of a national celebration, an occasion on a par with a major holiday- something unprecedented in movie history with the exception perhaps of the brouhaha preceding the two recent “Star Wars” prequels. Events which smacked far more of good marketing than good times.
More than anything, what the spontaneous coast-to-coast bursting into smile has brought to my mind are the early days of the British invasion and the way America embraced the Beatles. Historians, of course, are fond of explaining the phenomenon by pointing to the 1963 Kennedy assassination, the dark mood of the country in its wake and the fact that Americans were desperate for something to feel good about.
Certainly there are parallels here. In the aftermath of September 11 and the nosedive the nation’s economy has taken, Americans are once again desperate for something to lift their spirits and, once again, the answer has arrived by way of Liverpool (ancestral home of the Myers clan) moptopped and in Cuban-heeled boots. Ironically, the comedian’s tongue in cheek homage to the swinging 60s has turned out to be the fabbest addition to pop culture since the original four.
Myers and director Jay Roach pull out all the stops in “Goldmember” essentially dispensing with plot and allowing the picture to unspool as a freewheeling series of inspired skits and sight gags. Destiny’s Child’s Beyonce Knowles is along for the ride in the role of an old flame Powers plucks out of the disco era and brings back to the present day. Michael Caine, who played his share of swinging spies in the 60s, is the perfect choice to play the international man of mystery’s old man. And to the list of characters brought to latex-assisted life by Myers himself (Powers, Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard), is added the title character, a Dutch meteorological hedonist who has dreams of world conquest, a problem with flaking skin and one extremely valuable private part.
Sort of a supersized “Laugh In” with the flavor of a madhouse free for all, the movie is not without lulls but, over all, generates more comic energy per screen minute than the rest of the summer’s laughathons combined. And may very well make more money than all of them too. The film’s opening weekend was the largest in history for a comedy.
What can I say? If you thought the first and second in the series were groovy, you’re going to love the third. Here’s hoping Powers, Mini Me and #2 all decide there’s going to be a #4.