`Austin Powers in Goldmember' provides us with an hour and a half of inspired silliness. Not all of the film's elements work equally well, of course a seemingly common occurrence in even the best of comedies but this third in the series of popular spy spoofs generates more laughs than almost any other movie released in 2002.
Prime credit goes, of course, to Mike Myers, who both co-wrote the screenplay and inhabits no fewer than four of the movie's main characters. By this time, Myers has become so adept at his characterizations that watching him at work and at play here provides one of the prime pleasures of our viewing experience. Also in attendance are the usual suspects: Verne Troyer as Mini-Me, Michael York as Basil, Robert Wagner as Number 2, Seth Green as Scottie and Mindy Sterling as Frau Farbissinia. Folks added to the brew this time around include Fred Savage, Michael Caine and Beyonce Knowles as Foxxy Cleopatra, a bad-ass soul sister brought back from 1975 Afro hairdo and all - to help Austin rescue his kidnapped father and prevent Dr. Evil from yet again trying to destroy the world (this time by using a giant meteorite to melt the polar ice caps and flood the earth).
Co-written by Michael McCullers and directed by Jay Roach, the film has the good sense to throw caution to the wind and give Myers free rein to indulge himself in his own brand of inspired lunacy. The film starts off with a deliriously clever and funny opening credit scene in which many of Hollywood's biggest names make surprise, good-natured cameo appearances. That sense of unbridled fun carries through pretty much the entire film, although there are, as to be expected, ideas, bits and jokes that seem less effective than others. As with the two previous films, this `Austin Powers' suffers from the unfortunate tendency to both repeat and explain too many of its jokes. Sometimes you do find yourself wishing that the writers would put a bit more faith in the audience to get the humor the first time around. Still, there seems to be much less of that in this particular episode, and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to more than compensate for the occasional though not all that frequent clunker or lull that manages to sneak its way in there from time to time.
`Austin Powers in Goldmember' wallows a bit overmuch in the sordid moments, the gross-out gags, the locker room and bathroom humor that have become, alas, the hallmarks of the modern comedy. In short, this is probably not the film to take the family to see if your family includes impressionable children and/or easily offended adults. The sexual and scatological meters run into the red zone rather often in this film.
Nevertheless, `Austin Powers in Goldmember' works well if you enjoy a comedy where the actors seem for once to have been actually having a fun time while making it. Their infectious joy spills off the screen in a way that it doesn't in movies like `Mr. Deeds,' `Men in Black II' or, perish the thought, `The Master of Disguise,' to name just a few of the comedic bombs that have been foisted upon the unsuspecting public this summer. In contrast to the makers of those films, Mike Myers knows how to deliver the goods and, in the process, give his fans their hard-earned money's worth. Reserve us a seat for the next installment.