Mystery Men Movie Review

If nothing else, "Mystery Men," a chaff on the "Batman"-style event movie, has impeccable timing. The unbridled superhero genre has never been more ripe for spoofing, and this picture has an superior satirical pedigree, what with its cast that includes those hippest heir apparents of comedy royalty, Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo.

Adapted from the Dark Horse comic book of the same name, the movie's protagonists are a sad sack band of part-time, wannabes heroes with monikers like The Shoveler (mild-mannered William H. Macy, donning a golden spade); the silverware-wielding Blue Raja (Hank Azaria, in a bad fortune-teller get-up); the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), whose powers only work when no one is looking; The Spleen (Paul Rubens of "Pee-Wee" fame), who boasts near-lethal flatulence; The Bowler (Garofalo), whose translucent, supernatural ball contains her dead daddy's skull; and Mr. Furious (Stiller), whose alleged power is his violent and very short temper.

These not-so-super friends are called into action when Champion City's real savior -- a corporate sellout called Captain Amazing (a superbly conceited Greg Kinnear), whose rubbery costume is plastered with more ads than NASCAR jumpsuit -- is captured by the wildly nefarious, feral-eyed and disco-lovin' baddie Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush, on an all-you-can-eat scenery diet).

But even with a capriciously cornball story and such a delightfully demented cast, "Mystery Men" manages to miss its mark. After a solid hour of double-over laughs, first-time director Kinka Usher (the man behind the Taco Bell Chihuahua spots) drops the ball, allowing his riff on the Hollywood's most shameless commodity to become precisely what it set out to ridicule.

The last half of "Mystery Men" is conspicuously short on laughs (save an arsenal of Garofalo zingers), abandoning its sense of humor for an unnecessarily complicated, catch-phrase-crazy, guns-and-stunts-driven last act. After an over-long training sequence under the tutelage of an elder masked mentor called The Sphinx (Wes Studi), and a few arbitrary internal conflicts, these pawn shop heroes make an assault on Casanova's castle, trying their mettle and the audience's patience.

Its sad to see the way the picture unravels in the last hour after such a promising start. With so much talent on the screen, so many good, hard laughs (Captain Amazing has a publicist!) and such ironically handsome production design (Champion City is a slick, faux-futuristic mastermix of "Batman's" Gotham and "Blade Runner's" L.A.), I tried to find every way I could to like it.

But director Usher lost his way, gradually turning "Mystery Men's" mockery into unfortunate imitation.

Comments

Mystery Men Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, Opened: Friday, August 6, 1999

Advertisement

More Ben Stiller

Cara Delevingne In Talks For Lead Role in 'Zoolander 2'

Cara Delevingne, the British supermodel who made her acting debut in Anna Karenina, is being linked to the lead role in a sequel of Ben...

Stand Up To Cancer Reveals Its Incredible Celebrity Line-Up

Stand Up To Cancer aims to reiterate the point that everyone is connected and everyone can be affected by cancer with their every-two-year telethon which...

The Final Projects Of Robin Williams

The death of acting legend and comedic master, Robin Williams, has prompted many tributes from colleagues, friends, family and fans to pour in from around...

Mickey Rooney Dies Aged 93: Remembering The Child Star And Screen Legend

Mickey Rooney, star of the big screen for 88 years, has passed away aged 93 after a long illness, according to Variety. He died on...

Advertisement

A Week In Movies: Stiller and Williams film in rainy London, while trailers debut for Brosnan, Owen, Rio and Maleficent

In the lull between big awards shows, media attention turns to Super Bowl halftime performances and adverts, while award-nominated actors and filmmakers travel around the...

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Movie Review

One of those swoony American dramas that explores life in all its wondrousness, this film will quickly annoy more cynical viewers. But others will find...

'The Hobbit 2' Still Dominates Box Office Despite 'Frozen' Festive Surge [Trailer]

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has maintained its number one position in the box office charts for a third week. Peter Jackson's sequel has...

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' Opens a Whole New World for Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller's new film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a change for the actor, and so far it's not clear if it was...

Advertisement