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'Austin Powers in Goldmember'

Just try not to laugh at the slapstick and sex jokes in 'Goldmember'

Friday, July 26, 2002

By Ron Weiskind Post-Gazette Movie Editor

While watching "Austin Powers in Goldmember" I kept shaking my head in violent denial, trying unsuccessfully to keep myself from laughing at the film's sight gags and at dialogue so raunchy the MPAA ratings board must have blushed at its decision to give the movie a PG-13 instead of an R.

'Austin Powers

RATING: PG-13 for sexual innuendo, crude humor and language.

PLAYERS: Mike Myers, Michael Caine, Beyonce Knowles.

DIRECTOR: Jay Roach.

WEB SITE: www.austinpowers.com


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I didn't want to give in to the most obvious slapstick sexmongering since Benny Hill chased after nurses in panties, but I couldn't help myself. Although it shares some of the flaws of the first two Austin Powers movies, "Goldmember" also contains the best visual humor in the series.

It also makes the most of spoofing Hollywood's penchant for riding the coattails of celebrity by building jokes around the very popularity of its own characters -- and the fact that Mike Myers plays half of them. The opening sequence, which I won't spoil by describing in detail, is one of the funniest movie moments of the year.

The Austin Powers films have always referenced pop culture like a dumbed-down Dennis Miller, and "Goldmember" is no exception. Dr. Evil breaks into a rap song that makes fun of half the videos on MTV. Austin's female partner, Foxxy Cleopatra (portrayed by Beyonce Knowles, lead singer of Destiny's Child), sports a bombastic Afro and represents every blaxploitation character Pam Grier ever played. Britney Spears plays a fembot in a scene that inspires a take-off on "West Side Story," of all things.

And the title character (the latest of Myers' multiple characterizations), a villain transported through time from the disco '70s (with Foxxy and Austin hot on his trail), recalls one of James Bond's more memorable opponents, Auric Goldfinger, right down to his blond locks and European accent.

Unfortunately, Goldmember (considering the film's shagadelic obsession with sex, suffice to say his name doesn't refer to his credit-card status) may be the least memorable character in the Austin Powers universe. Not only isn't he funny or even comically menacing, this drip isn't really necessary.

Neither, I suppose, is the plot, in which Dr. Evil enlists Goldmember's help to create a tractor beam to attract a meteor toward Earth -- unless, of course, he is paid (place pinky finger to mouth) untold billions of dollars.

This time, though, he has a couple of trump cards. Not only is his son, Scott Evil (Seth Green), finally starting to live up to his name -- much to the dismay of the doc's little clone, Mini-Me (Verne Troyer) -- but Dr. Evil has also captured Austin Powers' father, Nigel (Michael Caine), a mean swinger in his own right.

Austin ends up spending less time in search of a shag and more time in pursuit of rescuing his dad, with no-nonsense Foxxy by his side. Unlike Myers in his myriad roles (Austin, Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard and Goldmember), she doesn't mug for the cameras. Neither does Caine, who plays for laughs as smoothly as a banana peel willing someone to step on it.

Knowles may not be goofy-sexy like Elizabeth Hurley in the first movie or in on the joke like Heather Graham in the second, but she helps to keep the film moving. And that is very definitely a good thing. All of the Austin Powers movies share an unfortunate tendency to ride a joke until it collapses from exhaustion, kill the horse and then beat it some more. It made the first half-hour of the original film interminable, especially because the jokes weren't very funny to begin with.

"Goldmember" has no compunction about stopping for a sight gag or a sexual innuendo whenever and however it can. But the film benefits from having to return to the chase, giving it a structure sorely lacking from the first movie and largely ignored in the second.

But be forewarned, especially if you're planning to bring the kids. "Goldmember" doesn't go as far as "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" when it comes to foul language. It does, however, stretch the PG-13 boundary to the breaking point. Still, if James Bond could have an adversary named Pussy Galore, I guess Austin Powers can grin wickedly at Japanese twins whose names are explicit sexual invitations. Yeah, baby!

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