Mystery Men 1999
I more or less just picked a random movie to watch today, I guess it does share a lot of similarities to both Dr. Horrible and Scott Pilgrim, especially to the latter as it was a box office bomb, grossing about half of its sixty million dollar budget. I think it’s considered somewhat of a cult classic, though I think it’s mostly just forgotten. One of the few things it has going for it is its unique cast, mixing offbeat comic actors like Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, and Paul Reubens with Geoffrey Rush and William H. Macy. There are all sorts of big, or at least moderate budget effects combined with a large number of fart jokes. It’s hard to tell exactly what audience this movie was aiming for, but I generally enjoyed it.
This is a superhero comedy that falls somewhere between the Tick and what I would assume Superhero movie is. There is a small team of wannabe superheroes in a massive futuristic town protected by the sponsored up Captain Amazing. They all have fairly random names and essentially no superpowers, there’s the Shoveler played by William Macy who wears a modified coal miner’s outfit and wields a shovel. He’s basically the moral center of the team. There’s the Blue Rajah played by Hank Azaria, who is a guy who lives with his mother, wears a turban made out of curtains, talks in a fake British accent, and throws silverware. Finally there’s Mr. Furious played by Ben Stiller who gets really angry. They end up recruiting other heroes that have actual powers, though mostly used for laughs like the Spleen played by Paul Reubens who has the power of extraordinarily potent and aimable flatulence, or the invisible boy played by Kel Mitchell of Good Burger/Keenan and Kel fame, who can become invisible only when no one is watching him. And finally there’s the Bowler played by Janeane Garofalo, who has the skull of her late father as a bowling ball which moves of its own accord and still communicates with her, as well as the Sphinx, who has the power to slice through guns somehow but only uses it once, and instead spends most of the time leading the rest of the team on cryptic-yet-somehow-profound teambuilding exercises.
The three main heroes also have personal lives that I think are supposed to add to the heart of the movie, but none of the three stories really made me care any more for the would-be-heroes. The Shoveler has a wife who has been begrudgingly putting up with his “hero” work for the past twelve years, even though she doesn’t seem to have a job and neither does he. Right before the climax of the movie, she threatens to leave him if he goes out heroing one more time, but the threat, and their relationship just feels empty and pointless, and honestly it feels like it’s intended to be a joke by the mere fact that it’s an interracial relationship, which is pretty sad if that’s true. The Blue Rajah still lives with his mother, and spends most of the movie hiding his superhero agenda from her while assuring her that he’s not using marijuana and yelling at her to stay out of his room. And finally, Mr. Furious develops a relationship with a new waitress at the diner the heroes spend most of their down time in, but the relationship feels like it goes from zero to sixty. She spends most of their first few encounters completely blowing off his advances, but after he walks her home, she suddenly becomes nearly gung-ho for the whole relationship. But really none of the three do much to further the characters, or are very funny, though in the Blue Rajah’s case, there is a bit of humor to it.
Honestly, I thought that the setup for the movie had the potential to be much more interesting than what the actual movie ended up being. Essentially the only successful superhero of Champion City, Captain Amazing, is so good that he’s run out of villains to fight. And without any villains to fight, there’s no news footage of him saving the day. And with no news footage of him saving the day, his corporate sponsors are starting to dry up. So his solution to this problem is to help along the parole of one of his most famous archvillains, Cassanova Frankenstein. But the plan backfires and he ends up being captured, with no one to save him except for the misfit heroes. I think it would have actually been much more interesting if that thread had continued further, and instead of just being captured, Captain Amazing ended up orchestrating the release, and eventually the creation of more supervillains for him to fight. But instead, we’re left with Geoffrey Rush playing the mad scientist with poor fashion sense, a thick accent, and a cadre of mismatched henchmen. Aside from a surprising appearance of Cee Lo Green as a rapper henchmen, none of them really stood out, and they all felt like they were supposed to be visual gags that never really ended up being very funny.
The real selling point of the movie is the humor, and I have to mention that while I enjoyed most of the humor, I could tell that it could easily be pretty polarizing: you either like it, or you hate it. I think the strong point of the movie is any time the team is interacting with itself. I loved the interplay between all of the different actors. Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo are really great any time they’re bickering with each other, and Paul Reubens is pretty entertaining as the Spleen, though I did think they might have overused the fart jokes. There was also some occasionally impressive special effects, though the one death scene was equal parts surprisingly gruesome and poor CGI. If you’re a fan of quirky comedies like The Tick, then you might enjoy this one, but it can easily put a lot of people off. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.