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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I liked the spirit of this movie, and feel that it got something of a raw deal when it was released. It was not advertised or marketed well at all by Universal, and it probably should not have been released in the hyper-competitive summer, but rather perhaps in the winter or the fall, when it would have had less competition from better advertised summer "block-buster" type films. This is an underdog type of film. It is a superhero action-comedy with a very specific core target audience, and it got lost in the summer schedule, which is a shame, because it is a little cult gem, in my opinion.
That said, I really loved this film, and I feel that it at least deserves to develop a cult or fan following. I think that either you "get" this film or you don't. Those that do "get" the film are probably people who understand the tropes of superhero comic books, and who appreciate the comic take on superheroes that Mystery Men has (I think that many reviewers did not "get" this movie, and there was something of a band-wagon effect which branded this a bad picture. It is not a bad picture at all, but is simply a fun action-comedy). For someone who grew up on comics, it was fun to see a superhero action comedy like this. The movie created a cool and quirky fantasy world that felt like a real comic book, and the stellar cast and outrageous characters provided the laughs.
Regarding superhero comic books: most adolescents who read these comics enjoy them because the stories are power fantasies (amongst other things). These kids like to imagine themselves in the role of a powerful hero or a dark avenger (I know I did). The irony is that many of these kids who are the core audience for superhero comics are usually not very big winners in the real world, but are often outsiders and underdogs themselves. The heroes in Mystery Men are also underdogs and outsiders who dream of being real heroes and winners, despite their mundane and quirky natures. Just as comic book fans dream of being superheroes, so do the loser lead characters of Mystery Men aspire to be heroes also. I liked this parallel.
So, comic book fans should be able to identify with the spirit of these characters and this movie. The main characters in Mystery Men are basically third-string wannabe superheroes with comically mundane and quirky powers. Just as many comic book readers want to be superheroes in their own imaginations, so are the lead characters of this movie wannabe superheroes. The character's struggles and desires to be real heroes despite their ineptitude and bargain basement powers is comically heroic, and is the source of both the charm and the comedy of this movie. I liked these underdog characters, found them to be funny, and rooted for them to win in spite of themselves and their ineptitude.
Storywise, Champion City's venal first-string superhero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), is captured by a mad and dangerous villain, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffery Rush). Three comically inept wannabe superheroes, Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Shoveller (William H. Macy), and The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) take it upon themselves to try and free Captain Amazing and to fight Casanova Frankenstein and his criminal minions. Finding themselves outnumbered by Casanova's thugs, our three heroes recruit other third-stringers to help, and are joined by Invisible Lad (Kel Mitchell), The Spleen (Paul Reubens), The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), and The Sphinx (Wes Studi). The wannabe heroes struggle with their own personal problems, self-doubts, quirky powers, and internal bickering, as well as with their villainous opponents. Will they be able to rise above their limitations and save Champion City? That is the basis of the story, but the real fun is the outlandish way the heroes go about trying to accomplish this in colorful and quirky Champion City.
The comedy is good, mainly on the strength of the comedic acting and improv talents of the likable leads. The direction, costumes, effects, and production design are both funny and evocative of real comic books (and of many previous comic book films, such as the Batman movies). I believed in the fun-house alternative reality of Champion City, and I enjoyed spending a few hours immersed in that fanciful world (just as I used to enjoy being immersed in the fanciful worlds of superhero comic books in my youth). It is a quirky, colorful, and fun world, full of quirky, colorful, and fun characters. The movie is an entertaining romp, and would be a great cult movie to see at a midnight show. Watch it and judge for yourself.
If you think movies and art in general must also educate and moralize, well, it takes us to a more complex issue and I'm willing to discuss it some other time. That said, I'll cast the first stone: Is William Shakespeare educating, moralizing or just plain entertaining? But today, I'm here to celebrate this extremely funny movie. The actors brought together make a `super squad', especially the three original members of the `super team'. Ben Stiller is superb and his character `Mr. Furious' is hilarious. In fact, everyone performs his or her role perfectly. The cinematography, locations, effects, costumes, make-up, music everything in this movie is very well done and finely achieved. This movie also casts a beautiful actress, the waitress (Claire Forlani), who -- lo and behold! -- can act as well; and a great villain, Casanova Frankenstein (Geofrey Rush).
There's a hero, `The Shovel' (William H. Macy) who knows he's gifted but has taken numerous blows over the past twelve years, as his wife makes very clear whenever she has the opportunity. There's an Englishman from India, (the talented Hank Azaria) who throws his mother's silverware (to be precise he's a fork-thrower) There is an invisible man, who can become invisible only when nobody looks at him (himself included). There's an accursed young man who farts the enemy unconscious. There's a brave heroin, Baby Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) , whose devastating arm is a translucent bowling-ball that holds her father's skull, and when she's not throwing it against Casanova Frankenstein's evil forces, she quarrels with his father's skull, that of an anti-Communist, anti-gay autocratic and very bad tempered cantankerous old man. There are two possible outputs when one brings all of these unrealities together: One possibility is that of ending up with a ludicrous and altogether regrettable piece of junk. The other, that of this present case, one can achieve one of the funniest and most amazing pictures made in years.
I bought this movie because I somehow had the idea I would like it ! That is kinda strange, 'caus I really dislike Hollywood Comedies ! But when I watched this movie yesterday I really laughed my guts out ! William H. Macy is funny as ever, Ben Stiller and Hank Azaria are absolutely hilarious ! This is really my kind of humor !
But the gathering of a great cast of actors and the professional looks (camera work/costumes/special effects) are the most important thing in this movie ! They make this movie a succes !
9 out of 10 for this movie that really made me (and my girlfriend)laugh and made me walk around with a big smile the entire day after!
I have absolutely no shame in declaring that 'Mystery Men' is one of my all time favorites. There is so much going on in this movie that it requires multiple viewings to catch all of the jokes. The cast is just amazing with special accolades going out to Hank Azaria as 'the Blue Raja', Geoffrey Rush as 'Casanova Frankenstein' and who could forget Ben Stiller as 'Mr. Furious'. The look of the film is great, resembling some sort of bizarro world Gotham City with even more bizarre villains. There is also so many memorable quotes in this that I could go on and on reciting them until someone slaps me. When this was released in 1999, it opened with little fanfare and was considered a flop. That's too bad because it really is a wonderful parody of the whole superhero genre and shouldn't be missed. 10 out of 10.
I've just read through most of the comments here and felt compelled to put
in a good word (or several) for this film. Having watched it several times,
I'd place it somewhere between Grosse Pointe Blank and the original Batman
movies, although not as smart as either. It's a lightweight, very amusing
comic-book ride through the lives of several awfully underpowered
'superheroes', struggling for recognition in a town overwhelmed by Captain
Amazing (Kinnear, who is absolutely marvellous).
First things first... in reply to criticisms:
1. No, it's not deep. You really want a comic-book movie to be as profound as The Seventh Seal? Look at what happens when that's attempted: the awful Batman follow-ups, Daredevil... and we still haven't seen what nastiness awaits in The Hulk or X-Men 2 (although the latter at least looks amusing enough).
2. Yes, it's camp, tongue-in-cheek nonsense. Anyone who actually believes Mystery Men attempts to be serious, has a message to convey (other than 'believe in yourself') or is anything more than a couple of hours of smiles should reconsider why they're watching it in the first place. It's in the same vein as Flash Gordon or anything Schwarzenegger has made in the last ten years. Enjoy it, and stop analysing it.
3. The script isn't too hot. This is entirely true, but how many comics in the 1970s had decent scripts or stories? It's only really since their evolution to high-budget productions, such as graphic novels and so on, that comics have developed any real depth. My personal memories from almost thirty years ago are of week-in-week-out battles with yet-another-supervillain. No major crises of conscience or anything... this is old-style fun.
Bearing all this in mind, the film is wonderful. William H. Macy is, of course, outstanding (when isn't he?), and the rest of the cast are superb in their roles. Yes, The Spleen is the adolescent humour, Invisible Boy is almost the token black guy and poor old Ben Stiller really does have a one-dimensional character... but hey, switch off the analytical part of your brain and enjoy it for what it is: a film one can watch time and again, chuckle heartily throughout and even enjoy with kids who won't be inundated by rappers thinking it's clever to swear all the time.
Recommended viewing, particularly if you have an off-the-wall sense of humour, enjoy the absurd or simply like watching Macy triumph in small roles.
Ben Stiller is driving force behind band of costumed superhero no-talents - or are they? Very cute rather than rip-roaring funny, I thought Macy, Garofalo and Azaria at least as effective as Stiller, whose own amusing "supertalent" is to become very indignant. Suffers from malady apparently endemic to recent Stiller films -- lots of misfired gastric and crotch humor along with at least one character with deliberately disgusting complexion (Reubens). But the outstanding premise and good ensemble work prevail, in my opinion, over the misses. Recommended.
As the terrible mysterious Sphinx says: "You will need more than Forks and Flatulence..." - but do you?
A fun Comic-Book Superhero movie that uses the premise of real people dressing up and fighting crime. And, of course, being real people - they are rather lame at it, over-shadowed by the city's real hero, Captain Amazing.
The sadness and sheer stupidity of grown men (and women) running around dressed up as Super-Heroes is the main gag of the film, and this is played fairly straight - with conflicting home-lives and the effect on jobs acted out in several scenes. But it's mainly fart gags, sarcasm and situation-comedy that provide the laughs throughout the film.
All the cast turn in good performances, but it is Hank Azaria (Blue Rajah) that really makes it for me. He has a little cameo in Heat - but you would not recognise him in this film as the camp British Fork-Flinging mother-dominated hero, who uses cutlery as weapons (but not "lethal" Knives - just Forks and Spoons). Each hero has their Achilles Heel and do not jell as a Team - leadership is required in the form of Sphinx, who teaches them in riddles. "When you can balance a Tack-Hammer on your head - you will then have a balanced attack". The super-hero Try-Outs 'round someone's Pool where they discover even lamer heroes is just fantastic - check out PMS Avenger, who only works four days a month and Waffle-Man ("Gold and Crispy - bad guys are history") with his Griddle Of Justice and Lo-Cal Truth Syrup.
The last 1/4 of the film does drag a little - where you have the build up to the Super-Hero/Villain end battle, but overall a great way to waste a few hours. Just writing this review is making me smirk - it gives you that type of feeling after a few viewings.
The other night, my girlfriend and I were watching some old clips from MTV's
"The State." I was busting a gut at all those characters that I had watched
back in High School. But sketch after sketch, Becky just stared at the
screen with something between a wince and a smile weighing down her face.
Mystery Men is the same way. It is not only a parody of superhero movies; it is a parody of all movies that take themselves too seriously. The utterly human dialogue is a deadpan riot in the midst of Burton-esque backdrops and a Hollywood story.
To rank a movie, you have to judge the difficulty of the genre and then decide how well the movie accomplished the goals of that genre. Mystery Men was not trying to be Sling Blade, so it can't be rated as highly as an Oscar producing flick. But what it does, it does well. 7.5 out of 10.
This movie is just plain Funny.
Really great lines in this movie, the stories not going to win an Oscar,
the comedy should.
All-Star cast with Ben Stiller, Pee-wee, Geoffrey Rush, Eddie Izzard,
Garrofalo, Macy, etc., etc.
If you're looking for the funniest movie out there this is it.
The marketing campaign for Mystery Men must surely rank among Hollywood's
greatest tragedies because it failed to give viewers the slightest hint of
the rule-breaking irreverence that makes this film so extraordinary. Not
since "The Simpsons" have so many incompetent, mediocre characters been
to appear so heroic.
A one line description of the plot--a group of untalented super-hero wannabees struggle to save a real superhero and their city--sounds like a recipe for a disastrous film. And it might have been disastrous if the actors had not played their comic roles with such dead-pan sincerity. This film truly does seem dedicated to the average, obscure people among us who doggedly pursue their dreams against all obstacles--including their own innate lack of talent or skill.
Mystery Men is extraordinary for a variety of reasons:
1. Setting/atmosphere. The setting for Mystery Men is a parody of Tim Burton's vision of Batman's Gotham City. Rather limited in scope (some sets are obviously reused), but effective at creating and maintaining the "alter earth" comic-book feel of this movie. The sheer darkness of sparsely-populated megalopolis Champion City makes you wonder why any truly benevolent superhero would even want to save it. But if you look closely, the set is filled with brutal social satire ala Paul Verhoeven's "Total Recall" and "Starship Troopers".
2. Characterization/Casting. Although Mystery Men does not develop characters as well as it should (particularly the villains), it does feature some of the most unique and hilarious characters you'll find on film. Here is a perfect example of how important casting is when turning a script into a film. Who else but Ben Stiller could be so sincerely oblivious as Mr. Furious? Who else but William H. Macy could wield a shovel with such dignity? The best comedy ensemble cast since "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Ruthless People".
3. Inside Jokes. Mystery Men is filled with inside jokes, and this may or may not make the film inaccessible to some. But if somehow manage to catch the obscure references to William Shatner, you will likely be rewarded with one good, healthy belly laugh after another throughout the film.
4. Dialog. The dialog here is the most consistently entertaining I've heard since "Guys & Dolls," made even better by the sheer variety of characters interacting, rather than relying on just one style of elocution. Few films offer so many hilarious sound bites and one-liners.
5. Taste. There is really no coherent swearing, gore, or overt sexual references in Mystery Men. Indeed, the lack of filth in this film makes it more fun, if only because of the suspense it creates while we wait to hear the first "bad word" that we've come to expect from Hollywood. The most foul thing about this film is The Spleen's flatulence, and even that is presented in good taste.
6. Rule-breaking. You gotta love films that break rules--you can almost smell the smoke from the filmmakers' battles with studio executives here. In addition to taking on William Shatner and allowing a major character to check out early, the film pokes fun at everything--including itself--it's almost like watching Mystery Science 3000 heckle an MST3K epiosode.
Unfortunately, like the similarly brilliant comedy "Dogma," Mystery Men suffers from a tedious, action-oriented ending that makes one feel the comedy ends quite some time before the film itself does. This is no excuse for missing the first hour and a half of this hilarious film, however. It's still quite satisfying to the very end.
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