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I saw "Mystery Men" on my birthday in 1999 while I was away on
vacation. When I came back home, I went to see it again. Keep in mind,
I was twelve, but at that time it was the coolest movie ever. I even
collected the ultra-rare action figures (I have them all except for the
Bowler, which is the hardest to find. They made Mr. Furious, The
Shoveler, The Blue Raja, The Spleen and Captain Amazing, in case your
wondering. There IS a William H. Macy action figure in existence!).
I've watched it many times over the years and it still remains a
favorite of mine, due mostly to fond childhood memories. It's not a
perfect movie, but it definitely deserves another look and perhaps a
The story: a bunch of low-level superheroes save the day. This was executed again in the mediocre, direct-to-video "The Specials" as well. But this is the other end of the spectrum: big budget (huge budget, almost $100 Million I think) studio comedy. Yes, the effects are overblown and the huge sets and wonderful production design are a bit much considering the plot. But don't think this as a stupid, special effects-y superhero movie--it's a PARODY. They fight a villain named Cassanova Frankenstein, people. He has a psychofrakulator, whatever that is (it's a doomsday device, he'll take over the world, yada yada.) And resident superhero Captain Amazing (a Zapp Brannigan-esque Greg Kinnear, with commercial-product-logos on his costume, nice touch) is kidnapped. Time for the Mystery Men: Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller, gets mad), The Shoveller (William H. Macy, beats people with shovels), The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria, British, throws forks), The Bowler (Janeane Garafolo, bowls), Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell, guess what he does), The Spleen (the great Paul Reubens, farts), and The Sphinx (Wes Studi, cuts guns in half with his mind, I am not kidding). The rest of the fantastic cast of character actors includes Geoffrey Rush as Cassanova, Lena Olin heavily edited out as Cassanova's bride, and the one and only Tom Waits as a crazy weapons dealer. So...with Macy, Kinnear, Olin, and Rush there are four Oscar-nominees (and one winner) and Tom freakin' Waits! It's not perfect though. It's overlong and there are some gushes of corniness here and there (The Shoveller's full of them).
The dialogue definitely outweighs the physical comedy, which is sometimes lacking (there's a guy who farts for his power, case closed). The dialogue is definitely a highlight, the cyclical ramblings of the Sphinx, the mixed metaphors of Mr. Furious, etc. It's downright a funny movie, (it will almost make you forget that this was the film that let "All Star" by Smashmouth out into the world.)
Unfortunately, the film did not do as well with critics and audiences as it should have. A sequel was originally planned (the film is in fact based on a comic book and characters from "The Flaming Carrot" comics. The Flaming Carrot was planned for the sequel I believe) but this did not do well at the box office. It could have been a hard sell, a superhero comedy with the guy from "There's Something About Mary." It also could have been the fact that it was released on the same day as "The Sixth Sense"--which ended up being the biggest hit for the month of August--as well as "The Thomas Crown Affair." Two other misunderstood classics were released on the same crowded weekend, oddly enough--"Dick" and "The Iron Giant." Critics gave MM passable reviews, but it was quickly forgotten. Sadly enough, on Comedy Central's Roast of Jerry Stiller, comedian Jeffrey Ross commented to Ben Stiller that, "I saw 'Mystery Men' and I fired MY agent." Ben is then seen to mouth the words, "I should have to." Don't listen to him. Give "Mystery Men" a chance.
I thought this movie was hilarious when I first saw it and even bought it.
I'm surprised that there is so much controversy over this film, because
everyone did great performances, especially Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious.
Quotes like "I need a compass to show me which way the wind shines." are
just a small fraction of the hilarity in this film.
Grade: A+(One of my favorite comedies of all time)
As a comic book reader, who still sees myself as a total kid at heart, I
admit I might have been a bit biased towards this movie. I mean, there
hasn't been a good superhero movie out for quite some time (NOTE: Batman
Forever was NOT a good superhero movie). I really wanted this film to be
good, and unlike most of my recent trips to the cinema (read Blair Witch
Project) I wasn't disappointed.
Mystery Men was definitely not a high-effects, tension-filled action flick, it was a comedy. And on that basis, it was a success. It had everyone in the small theater laughing, and got applause and laughs right through the final scene. Stiller and Garofolo are hilarious together, as always, and Azaria adds just the right touch of craziness. William H. Macy plays a great straight man, while Kel Mitchell and the fart-powered Paul Rubens are added just to keep the kiddies happy.
Though the sets are bizarre (and at times seem like ripoffs from both Batman and Blade Runner), and some of the jokes are obvious, it is still just plain funny. There are some lines that will catch even the most jaded viewer off-guard, and bring tears from the belly-laughers among us.
I definitely recommend this movie. Although not an all-time classic, it is twice as funny as the latest Austin Powers retread. The writing is good, and the cast is GREAT. If you're worried, plan on the matinee and pay less, but either way you'll be pleasantly surprised. I mean, who among us doesn't root for the losers once in a while?
This movie is a lot of fun. What makes it great especially are two things: one is the straightforward way the characters embrace the stereotypes, with discussions of their costumes and superpowers. There's an endearing earnestness to the parody that's very appealing; the second is basic sweetness of the characters and the quality of the chemistry. Claire Forlani deserves particular note as the object of Mr. Furious's desires. There's a boatload of talent here. I realize some with high expectations may have been disappointed, but this movie is a lot of fun, and kind of sweet.
Mystery Men is one of those movies that gets funnier over time. There is a naive innocence and "niceness" to the characters. It has become part of our family "culture," and we quote the characters often. It is my favorite film of the last two years. My kids are 13 and 11 and we all three love this film. Great acting and comedy. We love Galaxy Quest and Monty Python flicks too. Okay, we're not talking intellectual here, just Family bonding!
This movie was a brilliant concept. It was original, cleverly written and of high appeal to those of us who aren't really 'conformist' movie pickers. Don't get me wrong - there are some great movies that have wide appeal, but when you move into watching a movie based on "everyone else is watching it" - you know you're either a tween or don't really have an opinion. This had a lovely subtle humor - despite most people probably looking only at the obvious. The actors portrayed their characters with aplomb and I thought there was a lot more "personal" personality in this film. Has appeal for kids, as well as adults. Esp. nice to find a good movie that's not filled with sexual references and drug innuendos! A great film, not to be overlooked based on public consumption. This one is a must buy.
Director Kinka Usher stays true to his own credo, "Play it straight and they will laugh," and with the help of a superb cast has crafted what should become the #1 cult film of all time, `Mystery Men.' When an evil villain, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) is released from a mental institution, captures the local superhero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), and threatens to take over Champion City, three wanna-be superheroes, Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Shoveler (William H. Macy) and The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) come to the rescue. Frankenstein has been joined by a myriad assortment of underworld scum, however, and has become a formidable opponent. The trio realize that help is needed, and decide to recruit; what they end up with is nothing less than the most unforgettable team of `superheroes' ever assembled in the history of the cinema. Mr. Furious has his rage; The Shoveler, his shovel; The Blue Raja flings silverware (mainly forks, and the occasional spoon, but never a knife); the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell) can turn invisible as long as no one is watching; the Sphinx (Wes Studi), a heavy hitter from down south, is very mysterious and can break guns in half with his mind. Maybe; the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) can fling a ball with deadly accuracy; and The Spleen (Paul Reubens) wields flatulence that can incapacitate an entire room. This is a brilliant ensemble piece that delivers the laughs without ever becoming condescending or patronizing the audience, while playing it straight at all times. The dialogue is witty, and the performances given by Stiller, Macy, Azaria and Garofalo are exemplary. There is a number of memorable, hilarious scenes, especially the one in which they throw a pool party and barbecue to recruit, and conduct interviews with a stupefying assemblage of applicants; and another, in a bar, when the Bowler has a conversation with her long-dead father, whose skull has been implanted in her bowling ball. The funniest of all, however, has to be when the team actually attempts to rescue Captain Amazing. But these are only examples, for the entire movie is composed of one hilarious scene after another, laced with subtle humor that will keep you laughing and thinking about it for a long time. The real secret of it's success, though, is that Usher keeps it all real; the relationships between the characters are true, and the whole concept of being a `Superhero' is played as being entirely reasonable, which somehow gives a sense of credibility to the entire proceedings. In this world, the aspirations of Mr. Furious and the rest are tenable, and Usher keeps the laughs coming without ever resorting to slapstick or mere sight gags. The solid supporting cast includes Lena Olin (Dr. Annabel Leek), Eddie Izzard (Tony P.), Tom Waits (Doc Heller), Claire Forlani (Monica), Louise Lasser (The Blue Raja's mother), Jenifer Lewis (Lucille) and Pras (Tony C.). `Mystery Men' is a truly inspired movie that can be seen over and over again, with a new chuckle to be had with every viewing, guaranteed. In the immortal words of the Sphinx, `We are number one! All others are number two, or lower.' Is it an Oscar-worthy movie? Hardly; but for a good time and a lot of laughs, treat yourself to this masterwork of comedy; it's the real deal, and you won't regret it. I rate this one 10/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I could have sworn I submitted a review of this some time back. Be that as it may, MM is a terrific comedy and affectionate spoof of comic book movies, much like GALAXY QUEST spoofed sci-fi flicks. Ben Stiller shines as an inept superhero with anger management issues who leads a group of equally inept superheroes played by shovel-wielding William H. Macy and fork-tossing Hank Azaria (I kid you not). They add some new members in the course of the movie, played by Janine Garofalo, Paul Reubens, Wes Studi and Kel (of Keenan and Kel fame), in order to face down an army of bad guys headed up by the always delightful Geoffrey Rush. The plot is virtually identical to X-MEN, which came out the following year. I think this movie does better by the plot, which is your basic let's-save-the-world scenario. Some money was clearly expended on this under-appreciated enterprise. It shows in the costumes, the sets and the CGI. Garofalo, who came late to the project, is absolutely hysterical as a lass armed with a bowling ball containing the skull of her late and hardly lamented dad, who evidently converses with her although we never hear his side of the conversation. The movie will make no sense to those with no exposure to comic books or superhero movies. For everyone else, it is a gem. Watch out for some patchy editing in the final showdown.
In the history of movies based on comic books, "Mystery Men" is one of the most underrated ones. This is no regular comic superhero movie! It follows the exploits of a motley crew of well-meaning wannabes, which include Mr. Furious (played by Ben Stiller), the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), the Shoveller (William H. Macy), the Blue Rajah (Hank Azariah) and the Spleen (Paul Reubens). "Mystery Men" spoofs several aspects of superhero movies like "Superman" or "Batman," such as the pithy sayings, and the questions about secret identities. Most of the superheroes aren't billionaires like Bruce Wayne, but blue-collar types with menial jobs and neurotic home lives. So it looks as if director Kinka Usher is making the heroes into something the average viewer can relate to. I found "Mystery Men" to be visually stimulating and very funny. Even if it doesn't turn into a franchise, it's still a joy to watch!
Though I can't claim to be a comic book fanatic, I have read my share, so I guess I'm part of the audience of this film, and I wasn't disappointed. It does run out of steam near the end, it's almost overflowing with ideas, and it seems like Lena Olin, one of my favorite actresses, was left on the cutting room floor. Also, a little of Hank Azaria's Blue Raja can go a long way. Still, it's easy to forgive all of these faults when you have a film which is this much fun. All the actors seem to be having a blast with their roles, especially William H. Macy as the straight-arrow Shoveler, and Janeane Garofalo as The Bowler. And unlike some, I found the design of the city to make the joke even funnier. I also liked how disco was the music of choice of the bad guys; somehow, it seemed appropriate.
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