Mystery Men full movie review - Difficult to put into words, but fantastic!
******WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**************
So who are these "Mystery Men?" Simply put, the Mystery Men are a group of sub-Heroes desperately trying to live out their adolescent fantasy lives while botching both their real identities and their super identities. The Shoveller (Bill Macy) works construction during the day, and at night, leaves his wife and kids at home while he cruises the street looking for crimes to tackle with his extraordinary and unique Shovel-fighting style. The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) sells silverware to newlyweds by day and flings tableware at crackpot villians by night, if his mom isn't keeping him busy with the latest snooping. Mr. Furious works in a junk yard to earn his pay, then takes out his frustration on his friends at night, tossing ill-conceived one-liners at friend and foe alike and threatening to get really angry (leaving everyone to wonder, So What?). Ben Stiller breathes such life into this character, you can't help but love him.
These three spend their nights trying to capture that 'moment of glory' they've dreamed about... becoming real Super Heroes. Obviously, it could happen. Champion City has Captain Amazing, after all... a flying, fighting super-cop with enough corporate logos on his costume to stop an extra bullet or two. Greg Kinnear turns in a stellar performance as a middle-aged sellout trying to recapture his fans attention in the twilight of his career.
To bring back that 'extra magic' that might win the endorsements again, C.A. frees Casanova Frankenstein, a WAAAAAY over-the-top menace played to chilling perfection by Goeffrey Rush. This lunatic genius has created a 'psychofrakulator' to warp Champion City into a reflection of his own insanities... and ends up capturing C.A. within hours of his release from prison. This leaves only the Mystery Men to stop Frankenstein's evil plan, but with such henchmen as the Disco Boys protecting Frankenstein, the trio are going to need a little help.
Recruiting commences, and after a painful recruitment party, the team settles in with The Bowler (Janeane Garofolo), who initially has the only real talent in the team, with her mystic bowling ball seemingly animated by the vengeful spirit of her dead father; the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), who CLAIMS to turn invisible when ABSOLUTELY NO ONE is looking at him; the Spleen (Paul Reubens), granted mystically powerful flatulence by an angry gypsy; and the much underused Sphinx (Wes Studi), who is shown to be able to cut guns in half with his mind, then spends much of the rest of the movie spouting inane riddles and acting over-wise.
This film really is a cross-genre romp. Anyone wanting to pigeon-hole films into neat little categories is fighting a losing battle. This is a spoof/parody of the superhero genre - from the pseudo-Burton sets recycled endlessly (and occasionally decorated with more spoof material) to the ridiculous costumes, the comic-book genre gets a pretty good send-up. But at the same time, it is a serious superhero flick, as well. Both at once. While not a necessarily unique idea in itself (for example, this movie is in some ways reflective of D.C. Comic's short-lived Inferior Five work), it is fairly innovative for the big screen. It offers the comic-book world that requires a suspension of disbelief to accept anyway, then throws in the inevitable wanna-bes - and we all know, if superheroes were real, so would these guys be real. If the Big Guy with the S were flying around New York City, you'd see a half-dozen news reports about idiots in underwear getting their butts kicked on a regular basis. Sure, the Shoveller fights pretty well, and the Blue Raja hurls forks with great accuracy - all parts of the super-hero world. But does that make them genuine super-heroes? Only in their minds.
This movie is also a comedy, albeit a dark one. Inevitable, when trying to point out the patent ridiculous nature of super-heroics. One-liners fly as the comic geniuses on stage throw out numerous bits to play off of. Particularly marvelous is the dialogue by Janeane Garofalo with her bowling ball/father. Yet, it isn't a comedy in the sense of side-splitting laughter or eternally memorable jokes. It mixes in a dose of drama, of discovery and of romance, but never really ventures fully into any of it.
What really makes Mystery Men a good film, in the end, is that it is very engaging. The weak/lame good guys are eventually justified and, for one shining moment, really become super-heroes; justice is served; and the movie ends with a scene that reeks of realism (as much realism as is possible in a world where bowling balls fly and glasses make the perfect disguise). If the viewer stops trying to label the film, then the film can be a great romp.
Of course, no movie is perfect. Claire Forlani comes off as bored and directionless as Mr. Furious' love interest, in spite of having a pivotal role as his conscience. Tom Waits seems somehow confused by his own lines as the mad inventor Dr. Heller, although his opening scenes picking up retired ladies in the nursing home is worth watching alone. And the villians are never more than gun-toting lackeys (a point of which is made in the film). The cinematography is choppy and disjointed (such as happens in the average comic book, so it is excusable), the music sometimes overpowers the scenery, and the special effects are never quite integrated into the rest very well.
Yet, overall, this film is incredible. You probably have to be a fan of comics and the superhero genre to really appreciate this movie, but it's a fun romp and a good way to kill a couple of hours and let your brain rest.
8/10 in my opinion.