“Austin Powers in Goldmember” begins with a fairly cheap, attention-grabbing gimmick, but as far as those go, it’s a pretty clever and hilarious one. At the media screening, New Line passed out fliers urging attendees to “Zip it!” about the surprise, but by now it surely has already been ruined–and, consequently, one of the few glimmers of inspiration in this largely tired third screen adventure of the shagadelic British superspy.
With “Goldmember,” it is clear that star/co-writer Mike Myers and director Jay Roach are scraping for fresh material, for the movie is less a sequel than a haphazardly assembled collection of greatest hits rehashes. Enjoyed Dr. Evil (Myers) and diminutive clone Mini-Me’s (Verne Troyer) “Just the Two of Us” number? See the pair get down with their version of “Hard Knock Life.” Thought the sleazy, slobby Scotsman Fat Bastard (Myers, again) and his scatological brand of humor was funny? Here he is again, to beat the dead horse of gross-out gags.
The presence of Fat Bastard is basically just for the sake of reappearing, for he has hardly anything to do with the story. Austin (Myers, yet again) is placed back in action after his estranged former spy father Nigel (Michael Caine) is kidnapped and brought back to the year 1975, where Austin hooks up with his female partner du jour, the Pam Grier/Tamara Dobson-esque Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyoncé Knowles, making a confident, if thoroughly unchallenging, acting debut). After staying in the year just long enough for a gratuitous roller boogie number–not to mention obligatory workout for Knowles’ singing pipes–Austin and Foxxy follow Nigel and his kidnapper, nightclub owner Goldmember (still more Myers) back to the present day, where the dastardly Dutch discothèquer joins forces with Dr. Evil.
All the turns of the afterthought of a plot take a back seat to Dr. Evil, who once again is responsible for most of the film’s laughs. The one fresh angle Myers and Roach bring to “Goldmember” is the ongoing evolution of Dr. Evil’s relations with bickering pseudo-siblings, son Scott (Seth Green) and clone Mini-Me. It’s a shame that such a ceaselessly amusing character is stuck in a far less interesting one’s franchise, not to mention a series whose new cast additions just add needless, unfunny clutter. The fact of Caine’s mere casting as Austin’s father is more interesting than the execution; Nigel’s only apparent purpose is to dispense a pivotal bit of exposition in the final reel. The role of Foxxy gives Knowles the opportunity to do no more than coast by on her charisma and general foxiness (which, needless to say, she does well, considering). But there’s no bigger dud than the character who lends the film its title. He’s Dutch; he has the title body part; he likes eating his own dried skin. What comic (bad pun alert) gold.
New Line is fooling no one with the trailers’ declaration that “Goldmember” is Austin’s final screen adventure, for this installment is guaranteed a blockbuster box office take. But aside from the odd inspired bit (including good Godzilla gag; some fun with hard-to-read subtitles and British slang), Myers and Roach are running dangerously close to empty as far as new–and genuinely funny–ideas, and they would be best off quitting before they fall any farther behind.