Mystery Men (1999)

mystery men

“We’ve got a blind date with destiny. And it looks like she’s ordered the lobster.”

The Scoop: 1999 PG-13, directed by Kinka Usher and starring Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, and William H. Macy

Tagline: We’re not your classic heroes, we’re the other guys.

Summary Capsule: 3, no, 5, no, 6, no 7 super zeroes take on a supervillain who employs disco dancers… funky!

PoolMan’s rating: 3, no, 5, no, 6, no 7 out of 8.2!!! (wow, I’m getting eccentric in my old age)

PoolMan’s review: The SECOND I saw the ad for Mystery Men on TV back in ’99 (my God, I just used the phrase “back in ’99″… we’re doomed), I absolutely knew it would be a bust, or a huge MRFH classic. Well, I’ve finally taken it in, and I’m very pleased to say that it’s the latter. (that means the second one)

I’m sure you know the story, but to make a long story short, Champion City’s number one hero, the incredibly arrogant Captain Amazing has purposefully set his most powerful arch enemy free in an attempt to stir up more sponsors (his supersuit looks a fair deal like a well-decaled Indy car). However, the evil genius in question (the wonderfully named and portrayed Cassanova Frankenstein) manages to capture the Captain. So now who protects the city from imminent doom? A trio of not so super-powered super heroes named the Blue Raja (who throws forks and spoons, and feigns an horrible British accent), the Shoveler (a blue collar shoveling expert), and Mister Furious (who basically gets mad and hits things, though not too hard).

Okay, the short story gets longer. After a miserable first attempt to break into Frankenstein’s stronghold, the trio recruits even more firepower. Cue the Bowler (who hurls around a magic bowling ball containing the skull of her murdered father, the original Bowler), the Spleen (one gassy superhero!), Invisible Boy (so named for his ability to turn invisible only if NO ONE, including himself, is looking directly at him), and to lead the group, the Sphinx (a mentor with the ability to philosophize like Yoda without the terminally ill grammar). The hodgepodge group trains hard under the Sphinx, sews themselves shiny new costumes, and stock up on strange (but nonlethal) weapons to finally go in and save the Captain, as well as put Frankenstein away.

Surprisingly, this is probably one of the best comic to film transitions I’ve ever seen. (admittedly, I’ve never read the Dark Horse comic, but the film is very good, that’s all I mean) The key point is that the characters always seem to be just about winking into the camera; they never take themselves or this silly plot too seriously, and it really ends up working. Between the laughable assembly “powers” of the heroes and the Batman-esque badguys (remember the old series used to have themed bad guys, like artists, or cats, or librarians? Think disco, and lots of it, as well as crossdressers, frat boys, and you’re well on the way to summing up the side of evil) Mystery Men seems to have no problem laughing rather steadily at itself, which really is its saving grace. You end up cheering for the underdogs, which is something most people can identify with.

Aside from some seriously questionable “first person cams”, this flick has some great visual appeal. The environments are dark, and reminded me of a cross between Gotham City in the newer Batman films and Los Angeles in Blade Runner (sorry Justin). This is, however, a good thing. There are some neat effects, including the various energy weapons in the movie, and the flying bowling ball shots. Another good point? There’s actually a little character development here! Mr Furious learns to both mellow out and be more angry (?), the Blue Raja accepts his smothering mother, and the Invisible Boy has a cute coming-of-age moment as he proves his powers. Sort of.

One more film I wish I’d gotten off my heiny to see in theaters, MM was a lot of fun, and, in my humble opinion, a must-see for MRFHers. A light attitude and the ability to laugh at maybe one too many fart jokes would be a good idea, but I think if you’re strange enough to be reading our site, you can handle this one.

Clare’s rating: why I beg you, whhhhhhhhhyhyhyhyhyhyhyhy?????????????????

Clare’s review: There are few things in life worse than seeing a movie that you’re sure is going to kick ass and having it turn out to be a major toilet brush. I can deal with crap movies that actually turn out to be nothing more than crap. But it leaves a horrible taste in my mouth when I rush out on opening weekend to see a movie that appears to be a shoe in for a good time and have it turn out to be something worse than bad: BORING!!! That’s enough mental images of toilet brushes, crap and bad tastes in my mouth. You get the idea.

Look at this cast and tell me how this movie ended up not being that funny: Ben Stiller, Janeane Garafalo, Paul Rubens, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, Wes Studi, Tom Waits, Kel Mitchell, Eddie Izzard, and Geoffrey Rush. Listen to this plot synopsis and explain to me how it’s possible that Mystery Men struck me as slow moving and uninspired:

Mr. Furious, (Stiller), enlists his not so super super hero buddies, the Blue Raja (Azaria) who uses silverware as his main weapon, The Shoveler (Macy) who, um, shovels remarkably well, the Bowler (Garafalo) out to avenge the death of her father who happens to live in her magic bowling ball, the Spleen (Rubens) forever cursed to be the one who smelt it and dealt it and the Invisible Boy (Mitchell) who’s only invisible if no one looks at him to help rescue Captain Amazing (Kinnear) from the clutches of insane-o bad guy Casanova Frankenstein (Rush). Under the “terribly mysterious” tutelage of The Sphinx (Studi) and with the help of non-lethal weapons designer Dr. Heller (Waits) the team suits up, trains hard and eventually takes on the bad guy and his funkily dressed troops.

That sounds frickin’ great with lots of potential for really hilarious dialogue, fight scenes, training sessions and inter-hero squabbling. It’s even got Eddie Izzard in it as one of the Disco boys. There’s no WAY this movie could suck. But it just sits there, boring the hell out of me every time I go back to it. I’ve watched it 3 times now thinking that each time I would find something really hilarious in all that potential but every time I come back with less and less.

I was so amped when I saw this movie on opening weekend that I actually ended up enjoying it somewhat. There are a couple of funny scenes (Mr. Furious wearing watermelons on his feet was pretty hilarious) and Casanova Frankenstein, although not that scary a bad guy, really does have one of the best bad guy names around. Wes Studi’s portrayal of The Sphinx is pretty funny and I love Paul Reubens and was pleased as punch to see him with a paying gig. I guess I’m still just shocked by the disappointment because when I saw Mystery Men again this past weekend, I laughed even less than the few times I’d laughed before and really felt like I’d wasted a large part of my afternoon.

The only way I could recommend this movie is out of charity. I think that everyone in it is way more talented and funny than the material gives them the opportunity to exploit and they deserve our appreciation and love even if they ended up in a piece of crap. But if you’re not feeling that generous or just don’t feel like being bored silly, go rent something else. All of these guys have been way better and in way more interesting movies. Go rent one of them instead.

One of these things is not like the other…


  • Captain Amazing’s many, many sponsors on his suit? (This includes Pepsi, who threaten to pull out their contract, which seems to be the scariest thing on Captain Amazing’s mind)
  • Cassanova Frankenstein, during his parole hearing, makes mention of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. Of course, “Ode to Joy” was written by PoolMan’s ancestor, George Freiderich Handel. And no, I’m not kidding.
  • Mister Furious, pictured often on his Harley lookalike bike, is a terrible biker.
  • “Dockers Khakis are the official khakis of Champion City.” That’s actually in the credits. Product placement is shameless, peoples!

Groovy Quotes:

Mr Furious: Don’t mess with a volcano, man, cause I will go Pompei on your… butt!

The Spleen: She decreed that because she smelled it, I would forever be the one who DEALT IT!

Mr Furious: When I wake up, you better hope… you better hope you’re asleep!

Shoveler: God gave me a gift. I shovel. I shovel well.

Blue Raja: Will you join our little trio?
Invisible Boy: Hang on, I think you mean quintette!
The Spleen: What are you talking about, there’s five of us!

Shoveler: Let’s triangulate.
The Spleen: Equilateral, or isoceles?

Shoveler: We’ve got a blind date with destiny. And it looks like she’s ordered the lobster.

If you liked this movie, try these:


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