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AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Michael Caine
Director:  Jay Roach
Audio:  Dolby Digital EX 5.1, DTS ES
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  New Line Cinema
Features:  See Review
Length:  95 Minutes
Release Date:  December 3, 2002

“I took a Viagra and it got stuck in my throat.  I’ve had a stiff neck ever since.”

Film **

Austin Powers in Goldmember gave me a few of the biggest laughs I’ve had all year.  The problem wasn’t the size of the laughs, but the frequency.  Mike Myers’ comic creation has possibly taken one step too far, into a story that’s weak and threadbare, and tries so hard to be funny that the results are sometimes painful.

The opening sequence is one of the year’s most inspired offerings, combining ludicrously impressive stunts with one gag topped by another as the opening credits roll.  It may be the funniest thing yet to come from an Austin Powers movie, and given how much I enjoyed the first two, that’s no small compliment.

Mike Myers returns once again as co-writer, co-producer and star…he of course plays the shagadelic British super spy Austin Powers, his arch nemesis Dr. Evil, the Scottish assassin Fat Bastard, and adds one more to the mix with the surprisingly uninteresting Dutch villain Goldmember.  I won’t tell you how he got his name, but chances are, if you’re keyed into the series’ sense of humor, you’ve figured it out.

Dr. Evil’s latest scheme for world domination and riches involves the resurrection of Goldmember’s failed plan from 1975 to send a huge meteor crashing down to earth.  This, of course, means another time travel escapade, with both Dr. Evil and Austin Powers traveling back to the disco era.  There, Austin meets his current Powers lady, the hip Foxxy Cleopatra (Knowles).

In the meantime, both hero and villain are dealing with family issues.  Austin Powers finds himself rescuing his father, Nigel (Caine), a super spy himself who never had time for his son growing up, while Dr. Evil finds growing approval toward his increasingly evil son Scott (Green), while becoming less enamored with his own squashed clone, Mini-Me (the hilarious Troyer).  Mini-Me’s response to his sudden rejection is priceless.  The way all the stories come together at the end, though…well, let’s just say, only in an Austin Powers movie.

The high points?  The celebrity cameos, some of which are more than surprising, they’re stunning.  Mike Myers’ enthusiasm, though misplaced here, remains winning.  His two lead characters remain as charming as ever.  Beyonce Knowles, from the R&B group Destiny’s Child, is a real find…I think I liked Foxxy better than any of Austin’s previous ladies. 

The low points?  A lot of unfunny material, bad enough in and of itself, made worse by torturously stretching them out.  No amount of work turns a bad gag into a good one once it’s already fizzled…refusing to let it die is just annoying.  There’s too much repetition, too, as Myers clearly decided to take a couple of the best gags from The Spy Who Shagged Me and re-work them.  The shadow puppet sequence is actually very funny, but nothing we haven’t seen before.  A Dr. Evil musical number fares much worse, leaving us longing for the magic of “Just the Two of Us” from the previous film.  And the biggest laugh that comes from a repeat gag of a celestial object shaped like sexual organs is when one celebrity guest correctly condemns it as a blatant rip-off of the earlier movie.

And, as mentioned, overall, there’s just too little good comedy to work with.  Mike Myers is a gifted comedic performer and writer, and as such, I will hold off on ringing the curtain down on his most successful character creation.  But one more entry as weak as Goldmember and there’ll be no thawing out of Austin Powers’ career for sure.

Video ****

New Line never disappoints in the quality department.  Goldmember is superbly framed in anamorphic scope ratio (an unnecessary pan & scan version is also available), and it’s a colorful cornucopia of visuals.  Every shot is rich in detail, with sharp images, clear crisp lines, and absolutely gorgeous color renderings.  Not a flaw to be found any way you look at it.

Audio ****

The extended Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks are equally lively and vivid; from the action scenes to the noisy comedy, everything comes across cleanly and clearly, with plenty of rear stage action, smooth crossovers in all directions, plenty of bass for the subwoofer, and very strong dynamic range…I actually clicked my receiver down a couple of notches, and still found this to be an explosive soundtrack.  Highest marks!

Features ****

Infinifilm means features galore, and you get them here.  Mike Myers and director Jay Roach offer up a commentary track that seemed a bit superior to the ones on their first two films…the men seem more relaxed, more humorous, and more open about their memories.  You can enjoy four mini documentaries specifically tailored to the film’s spies, costumes, music and more.  An Infinifilm trivia track can be activated while you watch, which leads you to a plethora of extra behind-the-scenes footage, trivia and more.

But that’s not all…you also get “The World of Austin Powers” with even more featurettes on Myers and Roach, the characters, the stunts, the scenes and more, plus a segment on the visual effects, 15 deleted/alternate scenes with optional Roach commentary, four music videos including a new one from Britney Spears, a theatrical trailer and several hysterical teasers, plus extras for your DVD ROM…all set to some groovy animated menus with sound.  Yeah, baby, YEAH!!

Summary:

Fantastic disc, so-so movie.  New Line’s Infinifilm edition of Austin Powers in Goldmember is everything you’d want in a DVD, except a more consistently entertaining film.  Despite some big laughs, this film falls short of Myers’ previous efforts…it’s time to take Mr. Powers back to the drawing board.