tek's rating: ½

Mystery Men (PG-13)
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This came out in the summer of 1999, which makes me think I almost certainly saw it in a theater at the time, but I don't specifically remember doing so. I am sure I had it on VHS at some point (and still might). And I had it on DVD at some point, but I lost that. I'm writing this review in 2018, after getting it once again, this time on a triple feature DVD that also includes "Along Came Polly" and "Reality Bites." (Why I never wrote a review before now, I'm not sure.) Anyway, before rewatching it, I thought I'd probably put my review under "comedy." But then I realized "quirky" or "weird" would both be just as apt. Finally, I decided to go with "comic book movies," even though I had never heard of the comic that the characters in this movie were from. (And even in that, they were, I think, minor characters at best.) I guess the movie was a box office bomb, but personally I thought it was quite funny and just plain fun.

It's set in Champion City, which has a famous superhero called Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). These days, he's little more than a corporate sellout, with lots of endorsement deals. But he's starting to lose sponsors, because he's been so successful at thwarting the city's major criminal gangs and supervillains that he doesn't actually have a chance to do much superheroing anymore. Despite that, there is still some crime in Champion City, and there are any number of wannabe superheroes trying to fight it. The movie focuses on a few of them. There's Roy, aka Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), who supposedly gains enhanced strength when he gets angry (not that he Hulks out, or anything), though most of the time when he tries to make this happen, it doesn't. So it's unclear whether his "power" actually exists or not. But he still does his best to act like a badass bad-boy (while fighting real bad guys). He has a couple of teammates who fight crime with him: Eddy, aka the Shoveler (William H. Macy), whose weapon is a shovel; and Jeff, aka the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria), who affects a British accent and uses silverware (mostly forks) as weapons. The three of them mostly get their butts kicked, and Eddy's wife, Lucille (Jenifer Lewis), wants him to give up on being a superhero. The one who's most intent on the whole superhero thing is Mr. Furious.

In order to save his dwindling sponsorships, Captain Amazing tries to get his archnemesis, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), released from the insane asylum where he's been held for the past twenty years. Although it seems like Casanova already had his own plan to be released, as his psychiatrist, Dr. Anabel Leek (Lena Olin), pronounced him cured. The board still has to vote on his release, and they're convinced by a letter from Amazing, read by his secret alter ego, Lance Hunt. After he's released, Casanova goes back to his mansion and talks with the leaders of a gang called the Disco Boys, Tony P (Eddie Izzard) and Tony C, whom he gets to contact all the other gangs that used to work with him. Casanova is immediately visited by Captain Amazing, who wants to restart their old rivalry. However, Amazing is quickly taken prisoner by Casanova. Meanwhile, Mr. Furious had tailed the Disco Boys to Casanova's mansion, and when he sees Amazing go in but not come out, he realizes he's been captured, and informs his friends. He wants them to rescue Amazing, but... they soon realize they can't do it alone.

So they contact a teenager who calls himself Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell). His power turns out to be seemingly useless, but he knows all the other wannabe superheroes in the city, and helps organize a tryout for more superheroes to join the trio. But before that, a very unpopular hero called the Spleen (Paul Reubens) overhears them talking about their plan, and invites himself to join them. (The main reason no one likes him is that his superpower is farts.) Unfortunately, pretty much everyone who tries out is somehow even more ridiculous and useless than the five people holding the tryouts. But finally, one hero with actual skill shows up: Carol, aka the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), who is the daughter of a former superhero called Carmine the Bowler. Her weapon is a clear bowling ball with her father's skull inside it. (Carmine had been killed some time ago by Tony P.) The skull apparently talks to her, though she's the only one who can hear it. They are also later joined by a somewhat famous hero called the Sphinx (Wes Studi), who begins training them... though Mr. Furious doesn't find him at all impressive. They also eventually get an inventor named Dr. Heller (Tom Waits) to provide them with non-lethal weapons.

Well... there's also a waitress named Monica (Claire Forlani) who Mr. Furious would like to date. At first she isn't interested in him at all, because of his cheesy bad boy act. But she eventually does let him walk her home one night, encouraging him to just be himself. A couple of gangsters see Furious with her, and assume she's his girlfriend, so of course it's obvious that she will eventually be put in danger by Casanova, to get to Furious. I don't want to get into how that all plays out, though it is kind of cool, I guess. And I do like Monica as a character, though I wish she could have been more important to the story in her own right, instead of as a plot device for Furious's development arc. (And I really wish Dr. Leek could have been more important. After the initial hearing for Casanova's release, we see her in his company often, dressed like a villain herself. And when she was first introduced, I thought she'd become interesting, but she never did. She was pretty much just Casanova's arm candy. That really disappointed me.)

Anyway, of course the heroes eventually defeat the villains. But there is one really dark thing that happens, which I don't want to spoil, but which I thought should have had a more profound effect on the heroes than it did. Other than that, I guess there's nothing else I want to say about the plot. It's all just utterly redonkulous, and kind of awesome.

comic book movies