It’s been three years rather than two between Austin Powers films this time, and Mike Myers and his buddies obviously spent the extra time expanding their repertoire of toilet jokes, as the picture is clogged to overflowing with them. Allowing for this excess, it’s strictly more of the same from the groovidelic shagmeister in “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” a picture that, even more than the previous two, feels like a bunch of gags tossed together. The laughs are here, to be sure, although even some of the best of them are retreads and the Swinging ’60s recycling act is now feeling a bit past its zeitgeist prime. Still, New Line will continue to mine this shaft of gold to rich rewards theatrically and in ancillary markets; while B.O. may not reach the astounding $310 million internationally snagged by 1999’s “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” haul will certainly be much closer to that than to the modest $72 million earned worldwide by the first installment.
In fact, “Goldmember” spends very little time either in the ’60s or in Blighty, as it hops through time and around the globe following the blighted trail of Dr. Evil as he invites further showdowns with the International Man of Mystery. In full Pirandellian mode (and with New Line pleading with the press not to divulge the identities of the very big names making “guest appearances”), this one begins with a jokily spectacular pre-credits action sequence toplining the biggest male movie star in the world in “Austinpussy” opposite a certain svelte Oscar-winning actress playing Dixienormous, a two-time Oscar winning actor as Dr. Evil and a brash and diminutive actor-director as Mini Me, all directed by the most famous filmmaker since Alfred Hitchcock, who like Hitch has now been knighted.
The in-jokes continue with the name New Line having been inscribed atop the Paramount gate, a new Hollywood talent agency gaining supremacy over CAA, ICM and all the rest by charging only 9% and, finally, Dr. Evil having established his lair behind the Hollywood sign. It’s hardly depriving the picture of suspense to reveal, as some mildly amusing flashbacks show, that Austin Powers and Dr. Evil’s rivalry dates back to their school days at the Intelligence Academy, and that Austin suffers from feelings of lifelong neglect by his father, the illustrious super-agent Nigel Powers (Michael Caine).
As devised by Myers and co-scripter Michael McCullers, pic’s structure could not be more haphazard. Audience is reminded a couple of times that Dr. Evil once again intends to destroy the world, this time in league with Myers’ new title character. Certainly not as memorable a creation as his three others for the series — Austin, Dr. Evil and Fat Bastard, all reprised here — Goldmember is a middle-aged, yellow-haired Dutchman with weird Euro pronunciation who likes to eat the patches of skin that continually flake off his body and whose incinerated private parts have been replaced with a glowing golden rod. In practice, there’s not that much funny about him, other than that he makes for a butt of highly arcane anti-Dutch jibes from the other characters.
But he comes and goes quickly, as Austin is outfitted for a trip to 1975 by Basil (Michael York) with a pimpmobile and Mack threads in order to make a grand entrance at Gotham’s Studio 69. In a genuinely clever sequence involving the most esteemed Broadway musical comedy star of his generation, Austin makes the acquaintance of Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles), a singing supersleuth sistah who accompanies Austin on most of his subsequent adventures as he tries to resolve his relationship with his legendary dad while trying to work in tandem to thwart Dr. Evil and Goldmember.
What counts, of course, are the comic set pieces, which are just as erratic as they always have been in this series. Ranking toward the top is a prison musical number, shot like a rap video, in which a bunch of tough inmates, led by Dr. Evil and Mini Me, deliver a unique version of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from “Annie.” Also delivering the yocks are a scene in which Austin, having knocked an electric plug out of his socket, must hide behind a peeing cherub fountain statue and somehow provide for the water effect himself in order not to be detected, and a behind-the-screen scene at a doctor’s office that is hilarious despite being a total ripoff of the convulsive tent sequence in “The Spy Who Shagged Me.”
Fat Bastard, caught with almost nothing on at a sumo contest in Tokyo, is as gross as ever, but an engagingly unlikely creation all the same, and pic has fun with such other conceits as deliberately obscured subtitles — the better to make them dirty — and a submarine designed entirely in the image of Dr. Evil. But while much of the humor expectedly trades on “member”ship double entendres, rather more of it seems as though it were written in middle school bathrooms; it’s for a film like “Goldmember” that the PG-13 rating was invented.
Myers is Myers-times-four this time, doing shtick — often opposite himself in the same frame — that’s usually fun even if it’s not terribly funny. The fetchingly beauteous Knowles, in her major film debut after several years of success in the group Destiny’s Child, displays promising screen presence despite having nothing much special to do.
Given an unbecoming mouthful of Powers family teeth, Caine as Dad was an inspired casting idea that, likewise, hasn’t been anywhere near fully exploited. Remainder of the gang — Seth Green as Dr. Evil’s punky petulant son, Verne Troyer as the ever-frisky Mini Me, Mindy Sterling as the evil one’s enthusiastic assistant and Robert Wagner as his Number Two — delivers as expected. Production team clearly had a gas re-creating the multitude of eras in the gaudiest ways possible.