Austin Powers in Goldmember Review

Where does that sweet spot between parody and satire overlap? Few pieces of art have managed it, and most have been accidental. Those that strive for an intentional link between the two are far weaker than those that have found it without trying. Blowing the cult culture wide open, there is a layer of comedy films from around the dying days of the 20th century that burst into the new age of the world with a strange tenacity. Austin Powers in Goldmember is not one of them, but the Mike Myers-led trilogy certainly had what it takes to become that. It used to be. 

Perhaps one of the many weakening components is its title. A reference not just to penises, but to Goldeneye, the long-running punchline of the series being the James Bond bashing. But Powers is more than that, Myers made sure of it. He is the sex-crazed aspect of Bond highlighted to a maximum, and without any focus on the suave undertones that many an actor has brought to the role. But that odd, honed-in charm is missing throughout Austin Powers in Goldmember, a film that tries to add depth to a caricature. Cheap wordplay is around every corner, from character names to visual gags. Samuel Johnson once wrote that puns are the lowest form of comedy. Surely for this to be the lowest form of comedy, a pun would need to not just be present, but relevant to the process of the story. 

A good chunk of Austin Powers in Goldmember feels like throwaway material better suited to skit comedy than a feature-length presentation. Those few jokes and gags that aren’t contained in a scene or rehashes of older material from previous movies offer little in the way of devastating, ruptured laughter. There is a nostalgia that retains the core values of Austin Powers in Goldmember, though, a deeply held feeling of love for the 1960s. It bleeds into the third in the series as much as it did in the first and second, with strong iconography and decent riffs on the hippie craze from director Jay Roach.  

Returning gags and famous faces, the early 2000s were dark times indeed for the cameo-laden comedies. A-Listers appear, classic films are parodied, and Michael Caine mocks himself at every chance he gets. Fair play to the man, he realises he, like many of the other cast members, is fair game for the parody. But Austin Powers in Goldmember leaps far too deep into the culture cameos of the time. Britney Spears, Steven Spielberg and Singin’ in the Rain. We are taken far too deep. Myers has the good nature to retire the character, though. We are not suffering along through remakes and realisations of a character far past his sell-by date. We can allow and acknowledge the trilogy factor, but Austin Powers in Goldmember is running on the fumes of its previous entries, more so than anything unique or original. It has little of that, if anything.  

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