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Austin Powers in Goldmember

Yes, Austin Powers is back — and perhaps he's never going away. The British superspy has become incredibly profitable for New Line and Mike Myers, although perhaps they can offer a nod of thanks to the DVD format when they have a moment to spare. After all, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) did fair business at the American box-office, but it didn't become a certified cult phenom until the disc arrived in 1998, becoming (for a time) the best-selling DVD ever. All the fuss inevitably led to a sequel, The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), which more or less was what one should have expected, particularly from a "Saturday Night Live" alumnus — a good premise that's become too familiar, delivered less as a comedy and more simply as a celebration of the franchise's existence in the first place. Thankfully, Austin Powers in Goldmember reveals that this series may have life in it yet — very few of the gags are recycled, and there are a few good belly laughs to be found as well. Our story this time around involves Austin Powers (Myers) facing off once again against his main foe Dr. Evil (Myers), but also facing a new threat in Goldmember (Myers), a Dutch metallurgist who is developing a powerful tractor beam for Dr. Evil. Along the way Austin's dad, superspy Nigel Powers (Michael Caine), is kidnapped by Goldfinger, which forces Austin to travel back to 1975, where he meets up with the shagadelic Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyoncé Knowles).

*          *          *

Austin Powers in Goldmember is at times a lukewarm affair, often descending into bits of gross-out humor, which — while capable of being hysterically funny — also are a bit unnerving. But quite often the film is wonderfully inventive, using its episodic, free-form structure to build and sustain humor in various vignettes. This is most clearly evident in the opening scene, which delivers a series of A-list celebrity cameos in a film about the "real-life" Austin Powers. The traditional opening dance number is a nod to Hollywood musicals of yore, leading to the film proper — Myers plays four parts, although his newest character, Goldmember, fails to have any notable traits (except perhaps eating his own skin). As Austin and Dr. Evil, Myers inhabits the roles with a familiar touch, but it's important he have strong actors in the supporting roles — regrettably, Robert Wagner and Beyoncé Knowles come across blandly, not finding any way to riff on Myers' mania. Better is Michael Caine, who is genuinely amusing as ol' dad Nigel Powers, particulary with a bit of cockney rhyming slang. However, truly rising to the occasion is Seth Green as Scott Evil — he understands Myers' comic timing, and it's clear he's not here to work, but here to play (the evil laugh he develops is, literally, a scream). Other set-pieces fill out a story that barely needs a plot, in particular a Dr. Evil rap-video (complete with bleeped-out naughtiness) and a really funny take on film subtitles that recalls Myers' free-form creativity in the Wayne's World movies. But be forewarned: Goldmember has gross-out humor aplenty, so this may not be your cup of tea. Some of the jokes are certain to amuse eight-year olds — if you're anything like this writer, they may amuse the eight-year-old personality you secretly harbor. New Line's DVD release of Austin Powers in Goldmember, part of their "infinifilm" series, offers a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in DTS ES 6.1 and Dolby Digital EX 5.1. Features include a commentary with Myers and director Jay Roach; 15 deleted scenes, including an outtakes reel; a "fact tract" subtitle option; a look at the CGI effects used in the film; various behind-the-scenes featurettes covering the creative process and production design; four music videos; and five theatrical trailers. Blue keep-case.
—JJB



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