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Austin Powers in Goldmember
Reviewed by Martin Thomas, © 2002

Format: Movie
By:   Mike Myers (star, driving force, etc.)
Genre:   Comedy / Spy / Sci-Fi
Released:   Released July 26, 2002
Review Date:   July 26, 2002
RevSF Rating:   2/10 (What Is This?)

I would call it ironic how 97% of the comedy movies that do heavy promotion on the Comedy Central channel turn out to be the worst movies of the year. I would, that is, except that the word "irony" implies humor, of which we established there is none.

And even though Austin Powers: Goldmember has been following suit (like a mutha'), I don't think you should let that or its trailers--which scream "this the whole concept is played out"--ruin the movie for you. And I personally refuse to tell you anything about the movie, on the chance that I might ruin it for you, too . . .

. . . Aw, but it has such a cool opening sequence and all! Austin Powers parachutes down into his car, the Shaguar, and faces off with an army helicopter, then uses his ejector seat to fly over it and shoots the pilot . . . and when he lands he . . . he . . . um . . .

Y'know what? If I tell you what happens next I'll totally ruin it for you and I . . . am . . . NOT . . . gonna ruin it for you!

Tell you what. I'll talk about something completely unrelated. I'll just tell you about an old writer's trick (that was taught to me by an old writer):

Your script can have your characters get into the most ludicrous situations, bend the laws of physics or make the worst jokes ever, and the audience will still buy it as long as some character in the story acknowledges how strange/ridiculous/unfunny it is.

It's a sneaky little trick that works so well because it makes the viewer feel like the writer was in on the joke and they can relax. However, I recently found out that the technique doesn't hold up to being repeated every three and a half minutes within a full length feature film as they do it in Goldmember. At the point where "Scott Evil" rolls his eyes and tells Dr.Evil that his "Shhh!" routine is predictable and lame, he may as well have changed his name to "Scott Obvious-thirty minutes ago".

Oh Geez, I feel like I'm starting to ruin it . . . c'mon, think . . . think . . . ah!

Okay. Okay, I'm sure I still haven't ruined the movie for the fans of The Benny Hill Show.

That's right. And everybody, except women . . . well, old women, love Benny Hill. I know I have, ever since high school. Sure, it was all retreads of burlesque and vaudeville routines, but he was so cute doing them. Plus, the show was from the late 60's and had an "Awww, they didn't know any better" type charm.

I feel confident that I have not yet ruined Goldmember for you if you like--no, love Benny Hi--seriously, I mean really LOVE (as in, would've thrown your body onto the casket at his funeral) Benny Hill! Then it won't bother you at all that Goldmember comes down to being nothing more than 90 minutes of Mike Meyers warming over old Benny Hill gags. We're talking comedy that hasn't been cutting edge since the 1940s.

Uh . . . I still don't think this is going like I want it to.

I'm probably giving you the impression that I don't like any of the Austin Powers movies. That simply is not so. I loved and even bought a copy of the second one, The Spy Who Shagged Me. And I . . . uh, liked the first one.

I saw it late, after everybody had already told me how "great" it was...And I did think it was a great idea and about an hour of it really focused on that. But the other 30 minutes was just filler and Mike Meyer warming over old Benny Hill gags . . .

. . . Is there an echo in here? That's it, no more mentioning enny-Bay ill-Hay.

And let us not forget one of my favorite movies of this summer, Undercover Brother. A movie that effortlessly used the Austin Powers blueprint and was vastly superior in every way . . . Uh . . .um, but . . .keep in mind it had the unfair advantage using wit, social commentary and a more relevant source of parody. . . .

*sigh* Okay, no more mentioning UB either.

Tell you what, from now on I'm only gonna talk about the positive things I found in Goldmember. How 'bout that?

"Moi-kuhl Kyne!" Sorry, I meant Michael Caine and the expert casting of him as Austin's father, Nigel Powers. In a number of movies in the mid 60's, Michael Caine played British super-spy Harry Palmer (The Icpress Files, Billion Dollar Brain), a character who was no doubt a huge influence on the creation of Austin Powers. In Goldmember, Caine threatens to steal every scene he's in. He is so dead-on that you almost don't notice just how good he is. Another reason you almost don't notice is that he's only in maybe four scenes. What starts as the main plot, Nigel's kidnapping, get relegated to subplot and then forgotten plot device.

. . . Mmmm...let's move on . . .

It's a great excuse to get Beyoncé Knowles into a gold bikini! Even Ray Charles can see that singer Beyoncé (of Destiny's Child) is fine as vintage wine, but who would've guessed she could act? She takes on the roll of Austin Powers' new blaxploitation partner/ love interest, Foxy Cleopatra, as if singing was just a hobby. I don't think there's any better measure of an actors ability than how well they can look 'natural' when there's nothing to do--and given that after the first couple of "Shazams!" and judo chops Beyoncé is given absolutely nothing to do, outside of riding in the passenger's seat and asking setup questions, she's excellent!

Have you noticed something, though? Between Beyoncé here, Aunjanue Ellis in Undercover Brother, and Rosario Dawson in Men in Black 2 and the upcoming Pluto Nash, this summer Hollywood finally seems to be recognizing sexy black women! It's like they're becoming the new 'Latinas'. I'm delighted! . . . and shocked, 'cause I just knew it was gonna be Indian chicks next. . . .

Oops! Did I just mention Undercover Brother again?. Dammit! Moving on.

Next topic . . .

Mike Meyers plays four characters at once! Besides the underwritten Austin Powers, the desperately unfunny Dr. Evil, and the purely obligatory cameo of Fat Bastard, Mike Meyers also appears as the titular character Goldmember: a Dutch-born, discothèque-owning, megalomaniacal (not dissimilar from the role Meyers played in 54) contortionist. Unfortunately, with his ultra-thick accent and fetish for gold and eating flaking skin, Goldmember is a character whom no one obviously developed past deciding on a name for him. After his roller boogie intro scene he quickly goes from being the main villain (remember the title of the movie?) to being less of an entity than the Shaguar.

Can't save that one . . .

It's got the same Mike Meyers comedy-stylings we've come to depend on! True, to some Mike Meyers' comedy is all mugging at the camera and piss jokes, but to others he's a genius. All of his movies exist on a grid of overworking a simple formula and the schematic for this can be found in one of the early gags in Wayne's World:

Wayne and Garth pull up next to a Rolls Royce and motion to the passenger to roll down his window. Once he complies, Wayne, in an affected voice asks, "Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?"

It's ingenious! You see what just happened there? He got you to laugh without having to put any work into writing an actual joke. He simply regurgitated an old amusing TV commercial and got you laugh solely on the basis of nostalgia, yet you attach those good feelings to Wayne's World. This harkens back to Pepsi getting Michael Jackson to do their commercials back when he was hot.

* People feel good when they see Michael

* People see Michael with Pepsi

* People now see Pepsi and think of Michael

* People feel good when they see Pepsi

Scoff all you wish, but it caused Pepsi's sales to rise dramatically, despite the well-known fact that Michael Jackson doesn't even drink soda at all. It's all a persuasion/manipulation technique known as "anchoring". Mike Meyers has cut out the whole antiquated process of writing jokes and taken it to the level of the cinematic equivalent of Hip Hop sampling. And he's not the only genius to use this well past its 'recommended dosage'. You'll notice beer commercials and Adam Sandler doing the same thing with classic rock tunes.

Wow, doesn't that make you feel good that you helped turn all these people into multi-millionaires?

The Osbournes! Sure, as long as you're anchoring, why not throw in a cameo appearance from the stars of the hottest show on cable television? The most interesting thing here in Ozzy Osbourne's delivery is not that he's the umpteenth person within the movie to point out how lame the movie is (I'm not kidding, they beat that into the ground . . . uh, more than I have), but the outtakes during the end credits where it takes him nearly thirteen tries to say his one line correctly. It's maybe the one moment of genuine comedy.

Okay, I'm not sure how bad I screwed up here, but I'm optimistic that I've left the movie salvageable for some people. Just because I personally thought it was one of the worst movies of the year doesn't mean that you shouldn't see it.

Why, I'd wager that if you haven't seen Undercover Brother, don't remember Mike Meyers from SNL, have a fetish for Benny Hill and bodily functions, think jokes are overrated, feel concern for Seth Green since the cancellation of Greg the Bunny, still had questions from the first two movies, got in for free, thought you were getting roped into the seeing the new Halloween movie with the other Michael Meyers, the A/C in your car is busted, didn't have to arrange for a babysitter, AND (not "or") you went to a theater two blocks from your house ...this could very well be the movie you've been waiting for all summer.

Yeah, baby!


RevolutionSF contributor Martin Thomas is a retired comic book artist living out his remaining years hosting two movie review TV shows down in Austin, Texas. See him online at thereeldeal.com.

 
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