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" Holy crap, the vultures are eating my head. "
— Owen Wilson, Shanghai Noon

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Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Lara punches a shark, rides a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, and dives off a skyscraper —Matt Anderson (review...)

Jolie fits nicely into Lara Croft's boots

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The Austin Powers movies are evolving. The first film had too much plot and not enough jokes, and it relied too heavily on obscure 1960s spy-thriller references. The second film improved, with less plot, more jokes, and more zany characters. With Austin Powers in Goldmember, the franchise has reached its zenith, distilled and refined into its near-pure form.

The Man with the Midas Touch

Austin Powers hangs out with two of his friendsThis time around, our International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers (Mike Myers), must stop the Dutch supervillain Goldmember (also Mike Myers) from causing a meteor to collide with earth, thus melting the polar ice and flooding the entire world.

Although the Goldmember plot gives the movie its title, it contributes only a small piece of shrapnel to the explosion of comic situations on-screen. There is also the matter of Austin’s estranged father, secret agent Nigel Powers (Michael Caine), who has been kidnapped by Goldmember. Scott Evil (Seth Green) has a reconciliation with his estranged father, Dr. Evil (Myers again), who subsequently has a falling-out with his 1/8 size clone, Mini-Me (Verne Troyer). There’s also a movie being made about Austin Powers’ life, and Austin has some disagreements with the director.

Gag Me

With so much going on, the movie never slows down. Of the three Austin Powers movies, Goldmember is the most joke-filled. As usual, that’s a mixed blessing. Like its predecessors, Goldmember relies a little too heavily on lowbrow humor. Once again we get to hear all about Fat Bastard’s (Myers yet again) excretory system, and Goldmember, the fair-skinned, befreckled, Dutch Jack Lalanne, has a nasty habit that I’m ashamed to have laughed at.

There are some palatable jokes as well. Nathan Lane has a cameo that is not just an appearance, it’s a performance. The star-studded movie being made about Powers’ life provides some great unexpected laughs. Instead of references to obscure 1960s spy thrillers, there are now references to Austin Powers I and II, including my wife’s favorite, sharks with frickin laser beams on their heads.

My own favorite Austin Powers jokes have always been the running-gag set pieces. The first film ends with a couple minutes of nudity, carefully made PG by exactly placed props and cameras. The second film carries the gag further and introduces a new one, where we cut from one set of bystanders just as they’re about to say a naughty word, only to cut in on someone else, out of context, finishing the previous guy’s sentence. Austin Powers in Goldmember pleased me by carrying the second gag further and introducing a third gag, having to do with subtitles.

Working That Mojo

So Goldmember fits right in to the Austin Powers canon. If you’ve seen the other two movies, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Even if you don’t like it as well as I did, I can’t imagine any fans being disappointed by Austin Powers III.

Whether Myers has the momentum for a fourth movie remains to be seen. It might be hard to outdo Goldmember, which asymptotically brings the Powers phenomenon to its purest form yet. Is there anywhere else to go with the series? If not, let’s hope Myers moves on before he wears out his welcome. In the meantime, enjoy Myers’ golden days on the silver screen as Austin Powers.