Time travel is becoming something of a fall-back gag for Austin Powers. In 1999’s The Spy Who Shagged Me, the always funky “International Man of Mystery” traveled back to the 1960s to save the world and recover his stolen “mojo.” In Goldmember (do I need to take the time to point out this franchise’s gleeful abuse of James Bond titles?), Austin utilizes a time travel-enhanced Caddy to bounce his way back to 1975. Once there, he reunites with an old flame (Foxxy Cleopatra, played by Beyoncé Knowles of the R&B trio Destiny’s Child), chases after the diabolical Dutchman Goldmember (who is so obsessed with the glittering metal that he has replaced his genitals with a golden key), and of course, saves the world. Goldmember is intent on destroying the earth by diverting a huge golden asteroid into our planet’s path. Austin Powers is determined to stop him. Along the way, Austin meets up with his father, Nigel, unearths the mysteries of his youth, and battles the infamous Dr. Evil and his clone, Mini-Me, who have predictably sided with Goldmember. Or have they? [Insert maniacal laugh here.] “We felt Austin Powers 1 was a TV experience,” star Mike Myers told Entertainment Weekly. “The Spy Who Shagged Me was the film version of the TV experience, and that we wanted to make the Godfather II of broad comedy sequels in Goldmember.”
positive elements: Though played strictly for grins, Austin’s search for parental approval speaks to the very real hurt and abandonment many people have to deal with. Austin accuses his dad of never being there for him. He’s embarrassed and upset when his father fails to show up for his “spy academy” graduation and his knighting ceremony. Meanwhile, Scott Evil, Dr. Evil’s son, desperately seeks to win his father’s approval. It’s a bizarre and twisted presentation, but the pursuit of family unity and love is central to the plot.
sexual content: Where does one begin? I suppose “shag” is as good a place as any. It’s a slang term for sex—as in, “to have sex with” someone. And Goldmember utilizes the word in every way imaginable. The movie also serves up every euphemism I’ve ever heard for male and female genitalia—and dozens more. Austin prepares to bed a set of twins. Nigel takes on four women at once. Both attempts are interrupted before the men can fully act on their impulses—but not before they unleash dozens of sexually charged jokes.
One extended scene involves Austin and Mini-Me cavorting behind a back-lit screen. Their shadows make it appear as if Austin is, among other things, fondling his penis and bending down to kiss himself. Mini-Me makes a vulgar proposition to Foxxy. Several scenes later, he latches onto Foxxy’s leg and makes dog-like sexual motions against it. Verbal and visual gags dig into topics such as masturbation, oral sex, group sex, bestiality, homosexual attraction, cross-dressing, premature ejaculation and extraordinarily large sexual organs (male and female).
Goldmember and Nigel slap women on their backsides. Fat Bastard remarks that the sagging skin under his chin looks like a vagina. Foxxy spends all of her screen time baring the majority of her body (high slits and tiny tops). Britney Spears makes a cameo appearance in which she asks Mini-Me for his cell phone number because she’s heard about his “kickstand.”
violent content: Spoofs of typical spy movie-style action. A helicopter and a car blow up. Gunfire is exchanged. A laser gun (mounted on a shark’s head) kills a man. The sharks devour another the old-fashioned way. A fight between Austin and Mini-Me quickly deteriorates into an opportunity for Austin to maim the tiny clone. He hits him, trips him, kicks him, crushes his head in a refrigerator door and throws him around the room before stuffing him into a pillow case and smashing the bundle against everything in sight. Besides coming on to Mini-Me, Britney Spears also dances with Austin (she shoots bullets from her bra and her head explodes before the song ends). Fat Bastard grabs a Sumo wrestler’s private parts and forcefully twists them before picking him up and tossing him into the crowd.
crude or profane language: A half-dozen uses of the s-word (one in subtitles). Jesus’ name is taken in vain at least four times. God’s name is combined with a profanity. Twin Asian girls with the names Fook Mi and Fook Yu show up for the sole purpose of allowing Austin to repeatedly say the f-word “without actually saying it.” Other milder profanities also crop up and numerous bleeped profanities are included in segments that feature the Osbournes. All of that is coupled with an inestimable number of crudities.
drug and alcohol content: People drink alcohol at clubs and at Nigel’s apartment. Goldmember offers Austin and Nigel a smoke (he then proffers a cigarette, a cigar, a pipe and a bong).
other negative elements: A tractor-beam weapon is dubbed “Preparation H.” PowerPoint-style illustrations of how the weapon works evoke unwanted images of a suppository being used. A man with an unsightly facial mole is singled out for ridicule. Several characters loft their middle fingers in obscene gestures. Goldmember peels skin from his neck and then eats it (he also has a small box filled with skin flakes). Fat Bastard is shown (through a translucent screen) going to the bathroom (he then throws his Sumo underwear onto Austin joking about the residue on them). An extraordinarily long scene finds Austin relieving himself into a fountain (one camera angle makes it look like he is urinating into a man’s mouth). Indeed, defecation, urination, vomit and flatulence are Goldmember staples.
A tractor-beam weapon is dubbed “Preparation H.” PowerPoint-style illustrations of how the weapon works evoke unwanted images of a suppository being used. A man with an unsightly facial mole is singled out for ridicule. Several characters loft their middle fingers in obscene gestures. Goldmember peels skin from his neck and then eats it (he also has a small box filled with skin flakes). Fat Bastard is shown (through a translucent screen) going to the bathroom (he then throws his Sumo underwear onto Austin joking about the residue on them). An extraordinarily long scene finds Austin relieving himself into a fountain (one camera angle makes it look like he is urinating into a man’s mouth). Indeed, defecation, urination, vomit and flatulence are staples.
conclusion: There are a lot of dull, stupid, lifelessly crass movies being made these days. Austin Powers in Goldmember is not one of them. Is it crasser than even the first two Austin Powers flicks? Yep. Is it stuck in a groovy groove and incapable of dumping the disco theme for fresh scenery? Absolutely. But is it dull, stupid and lifeless? No way, baby! Goldmember is slickly produced, creatively conceived, and riotously acted (Mike Myers’ versatility and talent are undeniable). It excels when it spews out spoofs and social satire (everything from old movie musicals to rap videos are hilariously tweaked). And it confidently reels in audiences, holding them firmly in the palm of its hand. At the packed screening I attended, moviegoers laughed, roared, sighed and tittered right on cue—every time there was a cue. From the elderly couple sitting a few rows above me, to the 11-year-old boy two seats to my right, they loved every minute.
And now I’m going to slam the door on all those kudos. Mike Myers seems determined to use his ferocious talent to push fans down rather than lift them up. And we as a movie-loving culture are all but begging him to do it. After all, we’re the ones sitting in semi-dark theaters laughing ourselves silly. “Once upon my time,” writes Time magazine editorialist Richard Corliss, “dirty jokes were passed from older child to younger like sacred texts from the Gnostic Bible. They had the frisson of the forbidden. Now they are the official culture, imposed by film stars, sanctioned by a PG rating.” Put bluntly, Goldmember pushes the PG-13 boundary harder than any film I can think of. But it does it so artfully that millions of laugh-starved families will feel that it’s okay not to notice. The entertainment emperor has truly shed his clothes.