Austin Powers: Goldmember (2002)

Country: United States
Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles, Michael Caine, Seth Green, Robert Wagner, Michael York, Verne Troyer, Mindy Sterling
Cameos: Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brittany Spears, Steven Spielberg, Nathan Lane.
Music: George S. Clinton
‘Soul Bossa Nova’ by Quincy Jones
‘Miss You’ by The Rolling Stones

Austin Powers is back, once again battling master criminal Dr. Evil. The ‘Evil’ scheme this time is, with the help of Hedonistic Dutch metalurgist, Johan Van Der Smut (AKA: Goldmember), to use a tractor beam to drag a solid gold meteorite down to Earth, crashing it into the polar icecap and flooding the planet. The plot; the mission don’t really matter. It’s just framework to hang the jokes upon. Once again Mike Myers plays multiple roles. Not only Austin and Dr. Evil, but Fat Bastard — the oversized odious minion — returns once more and added to the mix is his new character Goldmember (he’s got the midas touch, but he touched it too much). Goldmember is a freaky, disco loving character from the mid 1970s.

Along for the ride are the usual stalwarts of the series. For the good guys we have Michael York as Basil Exposition the Head of British Intelligence. And for the bad guys, we have Robert Wagner as Number 2, Mindy Sterling as Frau Farbissina, Verne Troyer as Mini Me, and Seth Green as Scott Evil. That is one of the good things about the Austin Powers series is that they were able to keep the cast together over three films.

New characters for this instalment are Foxxy Cleopatra, played by Beyoncé Knowles and although I am not a fan of her musical work (I guess that shows my age), her performance is quite good. She seems to have entered into the spirit of the film and plays her Blaxploitation heroine with just the right amount of swagger.

Michael Caine plays Nigel Powers, Austin’s father and it’s a hammy performance. But Caine has acknowlegdged that in the press. But a hammy performance is all that is required. He gets all the worst dialogue and delivers it in the appropriate manner. But Caine isn’t in the film to act. He is there for his ‘presence’. He is there because he was Harry Palmer, the spy with the thick rimmed glasses. He is there because he played the womaniser Alfie. Put simply Michael Caine is a sixties icon, and his presence is to evoke reminisces about those times and those films. And it must be said, it works well, and allows the film-makers the opportunity for some more not-so-subtle in-jokes. When the film was in pre-production there were rumours that Sean Connery was going to be asked to play Austin’s father and Honor Blackman (who played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger) was going to be asked to play Austin’s mother. In the end I do not know if they were asked. It’s an amusing idea though, that Austin could be the son of James Bond and Pussy Galore. Somehow though, I don’t think it would have worked as successfully as utilising Caine. Sure Connery is Bond, but beyond that – what iconography is attached to Connery? Maybe the Aston Martin? Well Caine has the Mini from The Italian Job, which, let’s face it, is funnier — and is used in the film.

I know after all these years it is easy to look back at the Austin Powers series – particularly the second and third films – and turn up your nose. But these films were extremely successful, and they still retain the sense that they are a ‘love-letter’ to the sixties. Sure there’s some overworked comedy routines on display here – a whole lot of dick, poo and bum jokes – but there are one or two nuggets too. My favourite homages to the films of the sixties and seventies, in Goldmember include Austin’s first meeting with Foxxy at Studio 69, and Nathan Lane sits in as a diversion – the scene is lifted directly from the Peter Sellers comedy caper, After The Fox. Then of course there’s the Michael Caine gags. The man is such a legend that most of the references to his past work barely need explaining. The film references Alfie, The Italian Job, and the Harry Palmer films.

Goldmember is easily the weakest of the three Austin Powers films with way too many moments that reek of crass commercialism, such as the intro with Tom Cruise and others, and the musical interlude with Brittany Spears. Even though the Austin Powers films attempt to be a throwback to the sixties, these modern pop references only serve to date the film. It also must be remembered that the first Austin Powers film, when released at the cinemas wasn’t a massive hit. Only on video did it find an audience. The film-makers, erring on the side of caution, on the second and third films have broadened the humour base. You don’t have to be a spy film uber-geek to get all the jokes and as much as it annoys me, I guess referencing current popular trends does broaden the audience base of the film.

I don’t want you to think that I hate Goldmember, after all the Austin Powers series has brought me a lot of enjoyment, but I am very glad that they wrapped up most of the loose ends with this film (although Scott is still loitering around out there). Each subsequent installment has inadvertently stolen some of the enjoyment I got from the first film, International Man Of Mystery, and if the series were to continue, I feel I would eventually have nothing left but an empty heart and contempt for the film-makers.

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