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Fool's Gold 

Third Austin Powers strikes it dumb

Austin Powers in Goldmember
New Line Cinema

Labored and teeming with of half-hearted jokes, this third installment in the Austin Powers franchise falls wide of the giddy mark that The Spy Who Shagged Me hit three years ago.

This time, Mike Myers returns to his infectious "Yeah Baby" antics of playing multiple characters Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard, Austin Powers and, this time, a Dutch villain named Johann van der Smut as the title character "Goldmember."

Yet the fiendish Goldmember is the weakest personality in the bunch, with Dr. Evil and Fat Bastard never rising to the lofty comic moments they enjoyed in the last movie.

Michael Caine gets a much-deserved heavy helping of screen time, but Beyonce Knowles of Destiny's Child lacks the abundant comic savoir-faire to bring her Blaxploitation-inspired character Foxxy Cleopatra to life. Still, she does have the best line in the movie when she tells Austin, "You have the right to remain sexy, sugar."

Austin Powers in Goldmember starts off with a Mission Impossible 2 inspired opening action sequence that turns comic thrills into delightful surprise as characters reveal themselves to be actors portraying the Austin Powers crew for a new movie. There are lots of eye-popping cameos that arrive as firework displays of entertainment glamour. It seems that in Austin's world, Hollywood has caught onto his shtick and is making a movie called Austinpussy with more than a few Oscar-winning actors playing the parts of our favorite shagadelic troop. But the sequence sets an impossibly high watermark that the rest of the movie never quite matches.

Most disappointing are the scenes where Fat Bastard appears. You can't help but think back to the infamous "get in my belly" scene from The Spy Who Shagged Me in which the revolting Scottsman sexually taunted a doe-eyed and disgusted Heather Graham in bed. That scene sticks in one's memory as a groaning example of brilliantly crude comedy springing from context and innuendo.

But in Goldmember, the closest we get to Fat Bastard's outr humor is hearing him describe the especially pungent bouquet of his own flatulence to Austin and Foxxy. The humor never boils over partially because Austin and Foxxy's reactions don't quite fit the appropriate level of repugnance and desperation that Fat Bastard should engender with his noxious odors and less-than-eloquent verbal descriptions.

In the plot department, criminal mastermind Goldmember has kidnapped Austin's dad, Nigel Powers (Michael Caine), sending our man Austin to visit an imprisoned Dr. Evil for clues. A time trip back to 1975 finds Austin snooping around at Studio 69 where Goldmember -- who lost his tallywhacker in a smelting accident -- holds court by roller-skating around the club in tight gold shorts. Austin hooks up with his old flame Foxxy and brings her back to the future to bust up an evil plan for global destruction -- code-named "Preparation H" -- cooked up between Goldmember and the recently escaped Dr. Evil and Mini Me.

The star of the show is still Dr. Evil, and Myers has perfected that character's various charms to a point where he's not so pernicious anymore; unfortunately, the result of this pseudo-affectionate turn-of-events is that Austin Powers loses a heretofore-worthy adversary.

The movie does have a few sight gags and set-ups that are notably shocking for the weird visceral tingle they inspire -- i.e. the mole scene heavily promo-ed in all the trailers. This, along with a peeing fountain scene, makes for some of the movie's more raucous moments.

Bottomline: Mike Myers is a comic genius who doesn't get out enough. Unfortunately, Goldmember leaves you with the impression that the film's creator is attempting to bottle up Myers' precious humor like a commodity -- and Myers' all-too-important "looseness" gets lost in the exchange.

Just as with Tom Green's infectious humor, Myers needs to be breaking molds rather than adhering to them. The future success of the Austin Powers franchise will rest on Myers' ability to, in some measure, throw out everything he has done before with his own preconceptions of these far-out and fabulous characters.

-- Cole Smithey

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