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Oh blimey, I thought I smelled cabbage.

Movie

Austin Powers in Goldmember
(2002)

 

I had this pegged as perhaps the funniest of the trilogy, although the consensus seemed to have been that, even if grosses were higher, the series was increasingly running on fumes as it continued. These revisits re-positions the original as best, but Austin Powers in Goldmember comes in with a not-disrespectable silver. Some of it’s tired repetition, some of it’s inspired repetition, some of the original characters (the title one) give it a boost, while others (Beyoncé) are an outright drag. And, while passing the time, one is given to note what a lot of dead celebrities are littering its corridors!

Austin Powers: Having said that, I do have some thoughts. 

It’s a sign of the series’ cachet by this point – although grosses reflected that its popularity peaked with the first follow-up, The Spy Who Shagged Me, which tends to be the case with comedy sequels – that Myers now had an abundance of Hollywood players in his rolodex. So the meta-ness is unbridled, the parody bookended by a parody of the parody, as we open on Austin Powers in Austinpussy, directed by Steven Spielberg (dead) and starring Tom Cruise (dead, born female) as Austin, doing a ridiculous Tom Cruise stunt, Gwyneth Paltrow (dead, hermaphrodite) as Dixie Normous (kind of appropriate, in that sense), Kevin Spacey (former Black Hat) as Dr Evil, Danny DeVito (no idea, actually) as Mini-Me – chewing on a cigar, holding a machine gun, and getting the best line of the parody: “Hey asshole!” – and John Travolta (dead) as Goldmember. There’s still something infectiously funny about all this, even if Cruise can’t (couldn’t) do funny (he seems to know this, to be fair; I don’t think his Les Grossman is all that either). Spielberg has no kind of screen presence, however: Landis used him best in The Blues Brothers, feeding off that.

Austin Powers: Yes, squid pro ro.

This free range can stray into the indulgent, of course. There’s Britney (life in prison) performing Boys and revealing herself as a fembot, and the Ozzy & Family cameo(s) during the “Johnson” routine was an example of his ubiquity that had grown stale almost as soon as his show became a big deal (not that the ratings necessarily concurred). Then there’s Quincy Jones (distinguished mostly for all the public things trailing him around and his recorded comments, so if he is still alive and kicking, well it’s a miracle). A parody of The Silence of the Lambs more than a decade late (Dr Evil running up to the plexi window is quite funny, though). Several song routines besides Boys, most notably Dr Evil performing Hard Knock Life in prison (“Shizzle my nizzle, y’all”).

Goldmember: I’m from Holland, isn’t that veird?

The movie’s trump cards are firstly Goldmember, Johan Van der Smut, who lost his genitals in a smelting – or shmelting – accident, is super flexible in a ’70s disco way and is given to a particularly strained accent as he shows creepy fetishes – “You look very toyt, toyt like a tiger… Very sexual, very toyt”, insights in Mini-Me (“He doesn’t understand. He is shmall”) and bizarre revelations (“Look everyone, my winky was a key”) – not to mention an exceedingly grim yen for consuming his own skin condition. You could imagine Stellan Skarsgård playing him in a straight iteration.

Nigel Powers: There are only two things I can’t stand in this world: People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures, and the Dutch.

And secondly Michael Caine as Nigel Powers, caricaturing the cock-ernee playboy image of his ’60s self, the one Myers was using, in part, as a template. Caine gets into the broad spirit of things winningly, gleefully anti-Dutch (“Just like a bloody Dutchman!”; noting the trouble with the Belgians who “share a border with the Dutch”), indulging a subtitled cockney exchange with his son (“Shat on a turtle!”), being an unapologetically wayward dad (“If you’ve got an issue, here’s a tissue”) and adding hilarity to the innocuous phrase (“I stopped to have a tinkle”). Caine can also be added to the deceased list (he’d earlier been Vril’d). 

Dr Evil: The smell of waffles and Brussel sprouts filled the air.

It’s been commented upon since, but perhaps the most curious part of a movie taking the piss out of – among other genre staples – 007 is that 007 should subsequently, I’d hope obliviously, plunder Goldmember for inspiration. Spectre established a childhood, familial connection between Bond and his arch nemesis Blofeld, “the architect of all your pain”. Goldmember establishes a familial connection between Austin and Dr Evil (previously playing with the idea the latter was his father), complete with a school flashback scene that doesn’t really work but is also exactly the sort of unimaginative bollocks someone doing a Young… version of a hero would have devised, making its crappiness quite appropriate. So it’s revealed that Austin and Dr Evil are brothers rather than foster ones, but it speaks volumes about how bereft Eon was for ideas in its attempts to give their hero some “substance”.

Scott Evil: You’re the best evil son an evil dad could ever ask for.

Austin Powers’ lady this time is Beyoncé (hermaphrodite, dead, but following dead Taylor Swift’s example and shortly releasing a concert movie to cinemas), not generally recognised for her acting chops; this tells you why, as she’s freshly varnished wood. Indeed, aside from Goldmember’s roller disco number, the trip to 1975 is a bit of a stiff. Better catered for is balding Seth Green (not, it seems dead, nor it seems, a Black Hat), Scott finally earning daddy’s favour after furnishing him with sharks with frickin’ laser beams, with the consequence of Mini-Me being rejected and transforming into a mini-Austin (looking remarkably like a mini-Lisbeth Sandifer). 

Goldmember: A shmoke und a pancake. You know, a flapjack und a shigarette? No? Shigar und a waffle? No? Pipe und a crepe? No? Bong und a blintz? No? Well, then there ish no pleashing you.

On the re-upped gags front, No. 2 has been making huge money from starting the Hollywood Talent Agency, which is about right. Dr Evil’s latest scheme is Preparation H (a tractor beam to pull a meteor to Earth – there’s a vague attempt to include a plot in the movie somewhere, I think, if you look hard enough) eliciting Scott’s derisive suggestion “It should be called Operation Asscream” (“Yes, I’d like some chocolate ass cream… I agree, Preparation H does feel good, on the (w)hole”). Funny foreigner names, this time Japanese twins (Fook Mi and Fook Yu) meeting with Austin’s approval. Let’s all repeat: “He wouldn’t get away with that now”. 

As mentioned, there are melons, tits, boobs (Ozzy objecting to Johnson). The silhouette is back, when Austin and Mini-Me undergo a medical and urine sample (culminating in Austin “giving birth”, to an onlooker’s abject horror). Austin peeing to replace the dried-up fountain stream takes the prize, though (including eating some asparagus halfway through, and the video feed “showing” him micturating into an unconscious guard’s mouth). There’s an amusing misread subtitles sequence (“Your ass is happy”; “I have a huge rod”). And the moley gag with the MeToo’d Fred Savage is kind of gross, particularly poking it with a stick. 

Goldmember: May I present to you, the very sexual, the very toyte, Austin Power’s fahza.

Fat Bastard returns (“Oh, look at ma titties”), and for areas that tend into dodgy, or by association, we learn that he’s been on the Subway Diet at the end (the guy who made it famous subsequently became infamous). Nigel’s desire to see Mini-Me’s genitals is weird enough, without describing his member as “a baby’s arm holding an apple”. Austin admits “I open-mouth kissed a horse once” while Dr Evil announces “I haven’t laughed so much since I was a little girl”. Just gags is all, coming from former Black Hat Myers. The series’ stock-in-trade is potty humour, and self-consciously weird humour too, but sometimes it crosses into the downright uncomfortable.

Austin Powers in Goldmember was fractionally off The Spy Who Shagged Me’s gross, but more tellingly, it failed to make the year-end Top 10 (worldwide), in contrast to its predecessor. Myers was probably right to quit while he was ahead (his other franchise, Shrek, had no such luck). Albeit, he came back a few years later with an original, and it was monumental stinker The Love Guru (which I quite liked…) This one might be most salient now for the corpses in its wake, then, and how it’s legacy informed Bond’s.

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