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Well, after months of “looks pretty good so it’ll probably suck” anticipation, I finally was able to see the new Austin Powers movie this weekend, twice in one night, at the heralded Starlight Drive-In in East Atlanta. Paid for once of course, along with a repeat viewing of MIB II. I guess I can’t say my initial predictions on quality were that far off, but it wasn’t a complete disappointment. But I’ll get down to what worked and what didn’t in a second.
First off, a side note about the site. I’ve been watching the statistics on the web site since my hosting provider revamped their stat-o-meter a few weeks ago, and I gotta say it’s interesting to know what drives people. It seems that the majority of my hits go to a little diatribe that Chad wrote way back in the video store days about nudity in movies. Not that the individual article needs any more traffic, but if you want to see what I’m talking about you can see it here. You see, it turns out if you plug in the word “nude” on a search engine alongside any of several popular Hollywood starlets’ names, you get a link to the page in question. Unfortunately, since there’s no pretty pictures of Jennifer Tilly or Jennifer Connelly (apparently the two biggest referring names) most people tend to jump off the ship as soon as they board. What REALLY scares me is that “Sally Struthers Nude” is in the top ten referring search queries, tied with “Mia Kirschner Nude” but well ahead of searches for people along the lines of Dana Delaney, Madeline Stowe, and Natasha Henstridge in the buff. Now of course, since I’ve put those popular keywords here in this article, I’m probably gonna get mad hits on my Austin Powers 3 review, so I guess I better make it worth reading to hook some people in. But at least I have some comfort in knowing that some people still manage to find my site in their ongoing quest to find information about Jimmy Baio and Chad Allen, as my stats also report.
So anyway, on to GOLDMEMBER, which is a catchy little Bond-parodying title that really has no merit at all. Why not? Because basically, for being the title character, Mike Myers’ gold-fetish Dutchman is pretty damn inconsequential. You see, New Line Cinema would like for you to believe that the film revolves around the kidnapping of Austin’s father at the hands of Goldmember, a Dutch émigré who runs a Studio-54esque night club back in 1975. In actuality, it seems to revolve more around the struggle for acceptance between Dr. Evil and his two most favorite people, his son Scott and clone Mini-Me; as well as the whole family struggle between Austin and his dad. What basically happens here is that GOLDMEMBER actually winds up being a more intelligent movie than the producers want you to believe, possibly even a smarter movie than they ever intended it to be.
This all starts rolling along when Dr. Evil gets imprisoned in a maximum security prison for his plan to launch “Preparation H”, a tractor beam designed to bring a meteor to Earth (in a joke not unlike the ‘Alan Parsons Project’ or ‘Death Star’ bits from the previous films). While away (and after a couple of pretty funny bits parodying SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, “Oz”, and Jay-Z music videos), Scott Evil begins to desire to earn his father’s respect and become the heir to daddy’s evil conglomerate. So much of a desire, in fact, that he begins losing his hair to match his daddy’s smooth pate. So when Dr. Evil busts loose, Scott surprises Dr. Evil by giving him what he has had his eyes on since day one: frickin’ sharks with frickin’ lasers on their frickin’ heads! Earlier, Austin’s captured father Nigel Powers put a bug in Mini-Me’s ear encouraging him to stand up for himself, which plays out later when Dr. Evil invites Scott to join him at his side, alienating his former object of affection. Mini-Me winds up joining the enemy camp and takes the look of Austin himself, and hilarity ensues. Meanwhile, we learn a lot about the pasts of Austin and Dr. Evil, including the reasons behind the strained relationship between Austin and his own father. Like I said, the movie says a lot more than can be appreciated at face value, which is definitely working in its favor in this watcher’s eyes.
There’s a lot of other funny stuff within this movie, and it’s not all as been-there-done-that as you might think. For instance, there’s a hilarious sequence chronicling the pubescent years of Austin and Dr. Evil (turns out they were boarding school roomies) and includes a cameo by a young Basil Exposition and even explains the origin of Number 2’s name. The actors they got to portray the younger versions of our stars are dead-on ringers, and fuel what is one of the cleverest moments in the film. I also have to say that while I personally was a little disappointed in the ending sequence, it definitely came as a bit of a surprise and leaves the option open to either end the series altogether or to continue it in a whole new direction. There’s a neat little bit with Japanese subtitles that works pretty well, probably only bettered by the 4th-wall-breaking subtitle scene in THE IMPOSTORS. And while ending the series wouldn’t be a terrible idea (especially after some of the overkill), that new direction definitely has some potential. Without spoiling too much, I’ll give you this: more Scott Evil is a good thing.
Part of the movie’s selling point to the public was the promise of tons of celebrity cameos, which they definitely deliver on, mostly in the first five minutes of the film. I won’t take the fun out of the movie by revealing too much (which compromises on my beliefs on the subject of putting spoilers in reviews, I know, but I’ll be nice for once, since I might be getting hits from people who really only care about seeing Seth Green buck naked) but I will tell you that some A-list names make appearances here. But celebrity appearances aside, Mike Myers winds up adding the Goldmember character to his repertoire, making for four roles in total he gets to portray in this movie alone. It seems like a little bit of overkill, as Fat Bastard is pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things and his appearance is gratuitous at best and Goldmember is the least interesting character Myers has come up with to date. Plus, he has this really disgusting skin-eating habit that really serves no purpose at all.
There’s some other stuff that didn’t work too, so this sucker ain’t getting off as easy as it would like to. For one, Beyonce Knowles’ character Foxxy Cleopatra seems to fall flat. In fact, she’s kind of an afterthought in the film, and only seems to be there because they needed “the girl”. While Felicity Shagwell and Vanessa Kensington server are interesting seconds to Austin, Foxxy is overshadowed by her all-too-easy 70’s blaxploitation catchphrases and otherwise obvious-she-ain’t-no-actor performance. There’s also a long forgettable sequence involving a chase in daddy Powers’ Mini Cooper in Japan that results in some Godzilla jokes and other nonsense. The play-on-words with names kind of fails as well. “Fook Mi” and “Fook Yu” aren’t nearly as clever or inspired as “Ivana Humpalot” or “Alotta Fagina”, and the characters don’t even serve a purpose as the others do in providing conflict. They’re just there to provide a few cheap laughs. There’s also a running gag with Fred Savage’s character, “The Mole”, who not only serves as an infiltrator to Dr. Evil’s lair, but also has his face adorned with a very large birthmark. The joke gets run into the ground about 1/10th of a second after it debuts, and Austin’s uncontrollable “moleymoleymoley” quips don’t help.
Overall, I thought it worked a lot better than I expected it to. The stuff that was recycled did indeed feel that way, and hurt the movie as a result. But I was impressed to see how much new material actually made it in, and was genuinely surprised at how well they tied all the characters together with the flashback sequences and actually made for a compelling little family struggle paralleled between both Austin’s and Evil’s plights. No, it’s not high art, but it does serve as a nice little chapter in the Austin Powers series. Not the best of the three, but not a bad way to spend a Saturday night and a few bucks.
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