After Austin's spy dad is kidnapped, Dr. Evil explains that only the Dutch metallurgist Goldmember could be responsible. Zipping to 1975 and back, Austin and Foxxy Cleopatra must stop a molten asteroid of pure gold from melting the polar ice caps.
The world's biggest comedy franchise reaches episode three with a film that loudly signals its intent from the get-go: brasher, flashier, starrier, funnier. Faced with the challenge of topping the $300-million grossing The Spy Who Shagged Me, Goldmember opens its account with an instant, "Wow!": a surprise-packed pre-credits sequence that glides into an explosive dance number. Comedy is film's most precarious genre, but Myers & Co. have bought maximum insurance against audience ennui.
Sequels must innovate or die, and Myers keeps on adding to his already rich recipe. This time, he throws in Austin's dad Nigel Powers (a well-cast Caine), plus latest curvaceous sidekick Foxxy Cleopatra (Destiny's Child hottie Knowles), an ass-kicking F.B.I. agent who makes the most of her generic dialogue and 1970s wardrobe.
The price to be paid is the inevitable loss of focus: really, every minute of screen time where Dr. Evil isn't unleashing withering disdain is a minute wasted. In particular, skin-peeling, Dutch perv Goldmember struggles to make a mark, just as Fat Bastard was an unwelcome addition last time around.
With Austin Powers movies, plotting is beside the point, the film's real essence being a succession of meticulously constructed comic interludes. Several of the ones on offer here showcase Myers at his very best - and the physical abuse repeatedly meted out to Mini-Me is a very successful running gag. But without the compensation of a narrative that truly engages, less successful jokes are left to flail in a vacuum. Goldmember revels in its own fabulosity, but we don't care about that - we just want to laugh.
Three episodes in, Myers proves his comic mojo is working just fine. But the frantic exertions to keep us amused have tarnished the shine.