Austin Powers In Goldmember
- C Community Grade
In 1997, Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery made its anachronistic, swinging-'60s protagonist a cultural icon whose catchphrases and mannerisms were co-opted by just about every two-bit comedian running out of Viagra jokes. Much of the original film's humor came from the contrast between its protagonist's swinging ways and the grim, post-AIDS, post-identity-politics world in which he awoke, but the film's 1999 follow-up, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, virtually abandoned the fish-out-of-water element. In lieu of its predecessor's sharp observations on the clash between the '60s and the '90s, Spy substituted coarse physical comedy, characters like Fat Bastard (little more than a fat suit and a germ of a bad idea), and a little person whose mildly amusing hijinks inspired more bad parodies than any pop-culture phenomenon this side of The Matrix. Where Spy beat its handful of ideas into the ground, the new Austin Powers In Goldmember resurrects them, only to haul them out and slaughter them all over again. Myers returns as his menagerie of repulsive characters, but this time, his frantic mugging feels more like an insipid parlor trick than ever. Goldmember's lazy plot seems to have been written mainly to accommodate as many product-placement opportunities as possible, and has something to do with a search for Powers' father (Michael Caine) and the titular nefarious gold enthusiast. Beyoncé Knowles turns up as Myers' requisite sidekick and love interest, although like Heather Graham in Spy, she has a largely decorative role. Several generations removed from inspiration, Goldmember soldiers on obliviously, but without all its recycled bits, grating celebrity cameos, and product placement that rivals The Thomas Crown Affair for sheer chutzpah, the film would suggest a decent MTV Movie Awards skit unmercifully stretched to feature length. Goldmember takes enough material from its predecessors to re-populate a veritable comedy rainforest, even going so far as to poke fun at its own cannibalistic compulsions. But such familiar postmodern shtick merely acknowledges the desperation lingering over an oversaturated pop-culture institution. Goldmember's awfulness would seem to preclude more entries in the deteriorating franchise, but the James Bond films have already proven that continued inspiration isn't exactly a prerequisite for longevity.