How sad. It took 10 films, 1979’s “Moonraker,” for the James Bond franchise to become a parody of itself.

With the third film in the spy spoof series, “Austin Powers in Goldmember” has officially become a parody of itself, which when you consider that Powers was originally conceived as a parody of the Bond franchise, that is not a good thing.

Despite its shortcomings, there’s still plenty to please fans of the series, as long as they’re willing to give as much as they take. The third Powers film satisfies with more of the same, introducing new characters and twice-brewed jokes. If it was funny once, you can bet you’re going to see it again. The toilet humor is so prevalent you have to flush twice just to keep your head above the stink.

What doesn’t stink is quite funny, especially the hilarious, star-filled movie within a movie that opens the film and is the perfect set-up to the mayhem that follows. There’s nothing funnier than watching Hollywood’s untouchables come down off their cloud long enough to prove they still have a sense of humor. Another Bond-inspired opening credit sequence leads us into a convoluted plot once again involving time travel and sexy babes.

The script by star Mike Myers and Michael McCullers serves up a healthy serving of the first two films, while adding a side dish about Powers’ trip back to 1975, where he teams up with Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles) to save his father from Goldmember, a particularly nasty Dutchman with a gold-plated package (the result of a smelting accident) and a hunger for his flaking gold skin.

Fortunately Goldmember, who is more grotesque than funny, comes and goes faster than an American tourist after having sex with a Tijuana hooker. Some of the funniest enduring characters, Number One (Robert Wagner), Frau Farbissna (Mindy Sterling), and even Fat Bastard, have been pushed to the side of the frame to accommodate the plot’s father-son issues.

When Dr. Evil (Myers) gives up hope on son Scott (Seth Green) ever becoming evil enough to rule the world, he concentrates his time and effort on Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), his miniature clone. Green is given more screen time this outing, allowing Scott to finally connect with his father on something more than a superficial, incredulous level.

Powers also struggles with paternal issues when his father, Nigel Powers (Michael Caine), becomes a pawn in Dr. Evil and Goldmember’s attempt to control the world. Caine is a real sport, doing what is basically an impersonation of Myers doing an impersonation of Caine’s Harry Palmer character. Powers seizes the opportunity to rescue him so they finally can share one of those great father-son talks. The verbal ping-pong game between Myers and Caine is the highlight of the film.

Beyonce Knowles, one-third of Destiny’s Child, captures the spirit of the blaxploitation films of the seventies with her performance of Foxxy Cleopatra, equal parts Pam Grier (“Foxy Brown”) and Tamara Dobson (“Cleopatra Jones”). There’s real attitude in her performance, and whose exaggerated Afro is just as deadly as she is.

Myers admits that he wrote the film in two months, and it shows. More so than in the previous two films, “Goldmember” feels like a series of vignettes. Some work better than others, while the writers throw many jokes into the mix it’s impossible not to get a hit now and then. The good jokes are really good, but the bad jokes are like city buses. Just as one leaves, another shows up.

From the first time we met Powers in “International Man of Mystery,” Myers tapped into my youth by spoofing the very films I grew up with. James Bond, Matt Helm, Flint. As the film’s four-ring circus (Powers, Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard and now Goldmember), Myers is always watch- able. He defines each character so vividly we forget we’re watching the same actor.

I really liked the first “Austin Powers” film, which I still maintain is the best spy spoof, and with reservations, I liked the second film. With “Goldmember,” the franchise is starting to show its seams. The inspiration just isn’t there. This is a case where familiarity breeds discontent. It’s insulting that the writers retread familiar material when the genre their spoofing is ripe for parody.

Director Jay Roach, who has been at the helm since the beginning, seems to have lost interest. Except for a couple fleeting moments (like the prison music video) the magic is gone. Maybe Roach isn’t to blame. When a franchise becomes this big, decisions are based more on a financial rather than artistic level. “Goldmember” sure feels that way. The cast may be having a good time, but behind the camera it’s business as usual.


Too much “Powers” can be a bad thing


Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer and Michael Caine. Directed by Jay Roach. Rated PG-13. 96 Minutes.


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