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Bonfire of the Inanities 

by Ray Pride


Could we talk about the weather? Been hot, huh? Need to cool off? There's the one good reason for stumbling into a theater showing Austin Powers in Goldmember this weekend.


But let me put it another way: Whoooooo! This is the kind of stinkbomb that ought to clear a room.


Nah. No such luck. It's opening on more than 3,000 screens in North America, and whatever goodwill the previous two installments earned will gobble up grosses for at least a weekend. I saw the film with a packed audience that seemed as much shocked as titillated by the relentless filth this PG-13-rated AOLTimeWarner corporate monstrosity flings from the screen. After suffering through this thing, I'm reluctant even to flip through my notes and revisit the experience. It would sort of be like picking through a bowel movement for evidence of your last meal. Oh wait, that's one of the almost-funny jokes in this ragtag assembly of grotesque scatology, homosexual panic and contempt for the audience: Mike Myers' Fat Bastard character looking back in the bowl before a flush and roaring in that far-from-witty Scots burr, "What? Ah didn't have any corn!"


Did Mel Brooks know what he was doing when he let those cowboys rip around the campfire in Blazing Saddles? As entertaining as dog doo on the bottom of a shoe, Austin Powers in Goldmember is the new gold standard in corporate lack of taste. Where John Waters' Pink Flamingos garnered its underground, head-trip, post-hippie notoriety 30 years ago by the climactic spectacle of seeing a drag queen consume a poodle's droppings, the third (and one hopes, last) in the Austin Powers series is from start-to-finish obsessed with feces and urine. For a film that is not only obsessed with bodily functions, but comprised primarily of them, corporations still have lined up for the coprophagy: note Pepsi, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Apple, Bacardi, Aquafina and Subway sandwiches among those whose products are on display. Doesn't seem like the kind of correlation most suits would be after.


I'm still reeling at the cynicism. With even less of a plot than in the effervescently harmless Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers in Goldmember is more weightless than Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. This mess seems to think that references are jokes, as in "I'm a sexy beast, aren't I?" Whatever one thinks of Sexy Beast, at least its characters behave like representations of humans, rather than the inner self-loathing and loathing for the audience of a very successful comedy star. It's like seeing wretched improv comedy, without the saving grace of most of the audience being drunk.


Want more? The new character of Goldmember isn't funny, doesn't have much to do with the plot, and spends a lot of time saying the equivalent of "But I'm from Holland!"


Myers, having burned through all the jokes about his own ungainliness and plain features, now turns to homosexual panic. My attention wandered, looked around the room. Others -- not critics -- were looking around as well, as if embarrassed to look at the screen, or to be seen with faces upturned in the reflected light of the screen. C'mon, it's not satire; it's just gross. The vulgarity is no longer playful. It's like he's rubbing your nose in all the money he's making.


I have nothing against raunch. There are crass movies I don't mind. I admire much of the attitude behind movies by the Farrelly brothers. They don't seem to hate their characters or the audience. Todd Solondz (Happiness, Storytelling) seems like one sour little guy, but his films at least announce themselves as being violations of your trust as a moviegoer, rather than trying to sneak in under the wire as an "innocuous" comedy for the whole family to share.


One joke made me laugh out loud: Seth Green runs from a room in a huff and a pout, and his dad, Dr. Evil, announces, "I'd like to point out that no one else in my gene pool runs like a girl." Am I being too harsh? For those who obsess on the sexual parts of strangers on the street at every other waking moment, here's your movie. And if you're interested in autofellatio, sexually gifted little people, the scent of farts, the sound of farts, bestiality, testicle tenderness, emasculation, scab-eating and seeing Britney Spears blown to bits, truck on down and throw $10 more on the bonfire. Tuesday's Drudge Report (the Internet political gossip column) rumored that George W. Bush has said he can't wait to see it again.


Can't we deport Myers back to Canada? At the semi-roaring audience I saw this PG-13 aberration with, the man next to me kept repeating, in admiration, "This is the stupidest shit I ever saw!" True, baby, true!

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