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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.45%
Worth A Look44.3%
Average: 25.5%
Pretty Bad: 6.71%
Total Crap: 6.04%

14 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Mystery Men
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by EricDSnider

"Better than many movies about normal superheroes."
4 stars

As the world becomes more modern and young people get more cynical and world-weary, it's getting kinda hard to take superheroes seriously.

It doesn't help that most of the superhero movies of the last few years have ranged from the dull ("Blade," "Spawn") to that which is so bad as to be a crime against humanity ("Batman and Robin").

Enter "Mystery Men," a film about superheroes who aren't that super and who have to work pretty dang hard to be considered heroes. Most superheroes, the film reasons, are kind of dorky or lame in their own way, whether their creators know it or not; why not do a film where everyone's in on the joke, and we can all laugh about it together? There's no need to snigger quietly at Superman's odd penchant for tights or Batman's outlandish rubber suit if they KNOW they're ridiculous and they're laughing, too.

"Mystery Men" has all the trappings of a superhero world -- a generically named metropolis (Champion City), heroes with secret identities, dark, "Batman"-like ultra-modern settings -- but it finds humor in skewing them.

Our story finds Champion City's champion, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), in a rut. All he cares about now is corporate endorsements, and he bemoans the lacks of great villains to fight. He's defeated them all, and with Champion City's crime rate at an all-time low, Captain Amazing has superheroed himself out of a job.

To alleviate this, he arranges for his arch-nemesis Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) to be let out of the insane asylum, just so he'll have someone to fight with again. Unfortunately, Casanova promptly captures Captain Amazing and plans to kill him and (of course) destroy the city.

Meanwhile, local superhero wannabes Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) and the Shoveler (William H. Macy) are trying to fight crime, too, tired of always being upstaged by the jaded, only-in-it-for-the-publicity Captain Amazing. When they learn of his plight, they seek out other would-be heroes and team up to rescue him, defeat Casanova Frankenstein, and save Champion City.

Their powers are either mediocre or non-existent. Mr. Furious has the ability to get really angry, the Blue Raja throws forks (never knives), and the Shoveler, um, hits people with shovels. Their new recruits aren't much better: Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell) can only turn invisible if no one's watching him, and the Spleen (Paul Reubens) has overpowering flatulence. Only the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) has much real ability, in a magic bowling ball containing the skull of her dead-but-still-nagging father, which she can hurl around with great skill and smash through stuff.

The film's humor, which is abundant but a little uneven, centers mostly on the superheroes' inability to do things we normally associate with superheroes, and on mundane things like language and words. They discuss the pronunciations of "cadre" and "sabotage," and they can't seem to toss off those pithy, quick-witted one-liners the way heroes should ("We've got a blind date with destiny, and it looks like she's ordered the lobster" is about the best they can do).

Garofalo continues her streak of stealing every movie she's in, but it's still an ensemble cast. William H. Macy is one of the most versatile, enjoyable actors currently working, and Hank Azaria -- best known for his voice work on "The Simpsons" -- holds his own among the actors whose faces are more well-known.

"Mystery Men" is nothing if not earnest. As is befitting the cool, laid-back attitude of its target audience, the film doesn't try TOO hard. But there is so much humor in the idea of superheroes existing in a real world that doesn't get tapped here.

Still, it's promising. If sequels really are in the works (and I think it's a good idea), all they need to do is figure out the right balance between comedy and action -- or, better yet, do a more polished job of combining the two -- and they'll have a great franchise. This is a likable, enjoyable movie. The filmmakers, just like the main characters, just need a little more practice and then they'll truly be super.

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originally posted: 07/05/03 13:15:41
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User Comments

12/14/13 Mister Jimmy The super-hero auditions scene had me laffin my ass off! 5 stars
1/29/09 Nori This was one of those super corney awful movies that you absolutely loved. I enjoyed it. 5 stars
11/22/08 Shaun Wallner Great Film! 4 stars
9/14/08 nastyrabbit There's never been an ensemble cast with this kind of chemistry's PERFECT! 5 stars
12/06/07 Adrian BUT I AM SCARED OF THE SUZIES! 5 stars
4/16/07 Ne44FaSt Funny when they accidently psychofraculate Capt. Amazing 5 stars
7/29/06 David Cohen Speaks to the inner hero in all of us 4 stars
1/23/06 Indrid Cold I had heard that this is a lot funnier than you'd expect. It's true. 4 stars
5/03/05 dwarzel There are heroes/villains in the Marvel universe with MUCH lamer gimmicks than these. 4 stars
1/25/05 Jeff Anderson MY KIND OF UNIQUE SUPER HERO FILM! A great double feature with THE SPECIALS with Rob Lowe. 5 stars
9/05/04 DM Silly but perfect for your inner 10-year old 4 stars
6/08/04 Elen Sly and witty, and fun for comic book geeks and non-geeks alike. 5 stars
1/07/04 Phil M. Aficionado Bizarre. A gas. Great casting. Must have cost a FORTUNE to make 4 stars
4/13/03 Jack Sommersby Forced and uncouth nonsense. Stiller's panache is film's only asset. 1 stars
7/20/02 Bastard Child of Mother Teresa Pretty darn good! Fry in heck, gay man! 4 stars
5/16/02 Gerox Hooha! Janeane ownz me. 4 stars
11/03/01 Andrew Carden A Few Very Funny Scenes Are Overblowed With Special Effects. Stiller Looks Terrible. 3 stars
10/04/01 Monday Morning Do the HBS reviewers get paid to write all that or do they just have time to burn? 5 stars
10/03/01 Butterbean Stiller is corny, like always, but this movie put a smile on my face 3 stars
8/16/01 Dakamus Janeane Garafalo = Sexiest woman alive. 5 stars
8/07/01 Kasey Anderson I had to keep watching it over & over. WOW! 5 stars
3/02/01 dave funnier than I expected. Loved Jeanene. 5 stars
1/29/01 Jared Barber The best movie ever. Funny, and creative. 5 stars
4/20/00 Sergio Allen It really really Sucked I wanted my money back I almost walked out thats how much it sucked 1 stars
4/07/00 SID Why do they have superpowers at the end? Doesn't that contradict the whole movie? 4 stars
4/01/00 Mr Happy This movie was horrible shit. Not funny unless you from Newyork. 1 stars
3/29/00 Pat Spline is so funny 5 stars
3/08/00 David Rogers Pretty funny but it could have been better. 4 stars
3/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Gut-busting hilarious, with shades of The Thing in one particular scene...:-) 5 stars
2/08/00 Joel Harwood CLARE FORLANI IS Hot so 5 stars for her but the movie sux big time 2 stars
1/30/00 Steve Total unadulterated boring crap 1 stars
1/26/00 Katherine Hughes Humerous and enjoyable 4 stars
1/23/00 Kevin Cho At least 100 to the 10th power better than I thought it would be. U catch PW Herms in it?! 5 stars
1/23/00 Quintas Brilliant, hilarious, see it. 5 stars
10/14/99 Sara Phillips 5 stars
10/08/99 Theresa Wonderful, Hilarious! Among the best were Azaria, Macy, Garofolo, and Stiller 5 stars
9/27/99 Weird Andy Like sex with an ex-girlfriend,fun at the time, but ultimately a cheapening experience. 3 stars
9/14/99 Ratso Good job, they took a great cast and idea and made a piece of shit! 1 stars
9/04/99 Andel Crodo A disappointment if you expect a superhero movie, but a thrill if you expect a goof on them 4 stars
9/02/99 PhilmPhreak It was pretty cool - check it out 4 stars
8/27/99 Ah Dooey Okay for this type of movie. The characters were funny. 3 stars
8/22/99 Daelic I laughed. I groaned. Not great, but it was good fun. 4 stars
8/19/99 Admiral Crunch hey, at least it kicked Power Rangers in the butt 3 stars
8/19/99 Nessus Not as good as the old Tick comics, but pretty funny in spots. 4 stars
8/19/99 Geoff Unique. Watchable. Fun. A decent escape for 2 hours. 4 stars
8/18/99 KK I fell asleep halfway into it. Not even worth the price of a rental. 1 stars
8/17/99 Obi Wan Movie sucked! All funny scenes can be seen on the trailer! 2 stars
8/16/99 Temper One of the most halarious and wicked movies that I've seen in a few years! 5 stars
8/15/99 Mark Levin Hilarious send-up of formulaic comic-book superhero genre. 5 stars
8/15/99 Cage Against The Machine I was definately disappointed. 2 stars
8/14/99 jen Can't remember the last time I thought about walking out before the end credits... 1 stars
8/13/99 Mike Snell Laughed my ass off 4 stars
8/13/99 Roman has its moments 3 stars
8/12/99 PurityJustBegs this film is saturated with wonderful potential, but that is lost in time-weary cliches 3 stars
8/12/99 Michael Hodgman This movie is frickin great 5 stars
8/11/99 Cherry Very funny movie! 5 stars
8/11/99 kirk uhhh something to do for fun 3 stars
8/11/99 Michael Grimm if you like campy humor this movie is for you 4 stars
8/10/99 jenn "Blu Smrf" what a great movie, that is fun for both adults and kids alike 5 stars
8/10/99 Jo Jo, The Idiot Circus Boy The only thing that kept me from falling asleep was trying to imagine Garofalo nekked. 1 stars
8/10/99 Laz lighten up folks.this is a fun,hip ride.much better than expected. 5 stars
8/10/99 jvt Stiller was the only worthwhile character, a huge let down 2 stars
8/10/99 elfpunkt Paul Ruebens getting leghumped by a skunk was funny. The movie was not. 1 stars
8/10/99 Z it's funny, laugh! 5 stars
7/28/99 David Gilmour Reminiscent of the first two Batman movies and Bukaroo Bonzai. 5 stars
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  06-Aug-1999 (PG-13)


  13-Jan-2000 (PG)

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