Dir: Jay Roach. US. 2002. 94mins
Director Jay Roach and his multi-talented star and co-writer/co-producer Mike Myers have little new to add to the two previous Austin Powers film with the third instalment in the franchise. An intermittently funny confection which wears the joke dangerously thin, Austin Powers In Goldmember will, nonetheless, be a powerhouse performer among summer box office titles at least in English-speaking territories Its 1999 predecessor, The Spy Who Shagged Me, took $205.4m in the US alone. In the non-English speaking world, where the first two films have fallen somewhat flat (The Spy Who Shagged took only $104.3m or 34% of its worldwide gross), it will again flounder due to translation difficulties. The film opens in the US and UK this Friday (July 26).
Goldmember, like its predecessors International Man Of Mystery and The Spy Who Shagged Me, is a one-man comedy routine dependent on the funny accents, vocal acrobatics and verbal mannerisms of Myers. It's not just that many of the scripted jokes are exclusively tailored to an American audience or that many of the jokes are tied into the accents (a problem which creative dubbing teams across the world will doubtless address to the best of their abilities but which will still leave many non-English-speaking audiences feel left out). Like the numerous homemade comedies tailor-made for local audiences in Italy, Germany and Spain, Austin is a character whose comedy is meant first and foremost for English speakers.
While not as funny as the first two in the series, Goldmember has the benefit of some added attractions that could also fuel international ticket sales. There is a plethora of guest appearances by celebrities from the worlds of music and movies (New Line Cinema has wisely requested their identities not be revealed in the press so as not to spoil the surprise). Pop icon Beyonce Knowles makes an assured film debut as Austin sidekick Foxxy Cleopatra and is whipping up a storm of publicity around the world. Meanwhile the inclusion of Michael Caine in a small but amusing part as Austin's dad Nigel will also add to the must-see buzz.
Roach and Myers appeared to have hit a wall in terms of expanding the concept here. The gag about Goldmember is that he's Dutch, which becomes tired just as the gag about Fat Bastard being fat does. In fact, the four characters that Myers plays start getting in the way of other actors. Caine as Nigel Powers is a dynamic presence, especially since Caine himself is an authentic 1960s icon, but he is not given enough screen time. Similarly Knowles, who sparkles with comic timing and charisma in ways Heather Graham didn't come close to in The Spy Who Shagged Me, is under-used. Series regulars like Basil Exposition (York), Number Two (Wagner) and Frau Farbissina (Sterling) barely get a look in, while Scott Evil (Green) and Mini Me (Troyer) cross from hilarious to lame.
The plot - hardly the issue here - concerns an alliance between Dr Evil and Goldmember to take over the world. Part of the plan is to kidnap Austin's father, one of Britain's most famous spies, who is estranged from his son. Austin travels back in time to 1975 to capture Goldfinger and joins forces with his old flame Foxxy Cleopatra. Together they track down the two villains to Japan, where they have decamped to a submarine and are plotting to melt the polar ice caps.
Among the many skits, gags and routines along the way are an encounter with two Japanese girls called Fuk-Mi and Fuk-Yu; the introduction of Number Three (Savage), a mole planted by British intelligence who has a large mole above his lip; the return of Fat Bastard who delivers a gross-out monologue about the smell of his own crap; and Frau Farbissina's donning of a white trash outfit a la Erin Brockovich to penetrate the prison in which Dr Evil is being held captive. A Cockney rhyming slang conversation between Austin and Nigel - subtitled for easy understanding - is particularly droll, although quite how it will be dubbed into foreign languages is anyone's guess.
Some gags like Number Two's plan to take over the Hollywood talent agencies or Scott Evil's increasingly imitative attempts to please his father fall flat. Then again the film-makers keep the jokes coming fast and furious on the assumption that even the most discerning of filmgoers will find something to smile about.
Prod cos: Gratitude International, Team Todd, Moving Pictures
US dist: New Line Cinema
Int'l sales: New Line International
Exec prod: Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener
Prods: Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Demi Moore, Eric McLeod, John Lyons, Mike Myers
Scr: Myers, Michael McCullers
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Prod des: Rusty Smith
Ed: John Poll, Greg Hayden
Music: George S Clinton
Main cast: Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Michael Caine, Fred Savage