Yes, it’s chock full of gross-out gags, stupid jokes and even stupider characters. And, no, it isn’t much more than an elaboration on The Spy Who Shagged Me. But it’s also the first — and possibly only — non-stop hysterically funny comedy of the year, featuring more wild invention (both comedic and cinematic) than a dozen average movies. There’s a world of difference between the half-hearted “just-sign-the-paycheck” repetition of a film like Men in Black II and the approach taken here. MIB II merely retreads the same gags, in the apparent hope that either you won’t notice, or that if it worked once, it’ll work again. Myers’ approach differs, in that it deliberately, obviously and self-referentially builds on gags from the previous films to create something that at once plays to your expectations, meets them and then transcends those expectations. In fact, one of the film’s funniest moments not only plays on a gag from The Spy Who Shagged Me, but, rather than try to top that gag, Myers opts to present an abbreviated version of it, then have a guest star comment on how lame it is to be using the same gag that was in the last film. It’s the kind of comedy we haven’t seen much of since Bing and Bob went down their various “Roads.” That, however, is only one aspect of the creativity evidenced by Myers and director Jay Roach, who have managed to successfully expand and enlarge upon what was originally a rather thin conceit about a swinging ’60s spy awakened from a cryogenic sleep in the ’90s. From this an increasingly complex, playful and elaborate series of films has evolved — movies which manage to affectionately (a key aspect) poke fun at an entire film genre, poke fun at itself and poke fun at a specific style of filmmaking. That’s a pretty hefty accomplishment for movies where the level of comedy tends toward toilet humor and the lewdest of low sex jokes. Even that’s a little simplistic, since Myers dares to take that humor one step further, so that it’s as much a joke about movies that trade in that type of humor as it is one of them. The films themselves are unusual in that they’ve actually gotten progressively better — more self-assured, clever and elaborate — as they’ve gone on, meaning that Goldmember is the best of the three. It retains the kitschiness of its immediate predecessor — the cheesy ’60s rear-screen projection whenever the characters are in a car, the distinctive Our Man Flint telephone sound — yet it goes beyond the earlier film in terms of both spectacle and invention. Where The Spy That Shagged Me offered tentative musical numbers, Goldmember gives us marvelously clever full-blown musical numbers. The film is almost breathless in its pacing, never slowing down for a minute. Don’t like this joke? That’s OK — there’ll be another one along in a few seconds. The real inspiration this time, though, is bringing in Michael Caine as Austin’s father, Nigel Powers. After all, who but Caine’s Harry Palmer (The Ipcress Files, Funeral in Berlin, Billion Dollar Brain) was the visual inspiration for Austin Powers? Caine’s presence gives the film a certain legitimacy – a legitimacy that Caine himself cheerfully undermines in keeping with the spirit of the proceedings. The plot isn’t a whole lot different from that of The Spy Who Shagged Me, with Austin traveling back in time to foil Dr. Evil’s latest scheme and, in this case, save his father. Myers adds to his gallery of peculiar characters with the flamboyant gold-obsessed Goldmember (so named because he lost his genitals in a “tragic smelting accident”). Goldmember may not be quite on a par with Dr. Evil or Fat Bastard (another continuing Myers character), but he’s still a nicely outre addition. There are surprises and guests aplenty. The film’s opening alone — the less revealed here the better — is worth the price of admission. It’s all big and bright and colorful and fun. I can’t think of a better pure fun summer movie than this one. And, if nothing else, Austin is now my hero, solely based on what he does to Britney Spears. To find out what I mean … well, you’re just going to have to see the movie.
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