MYSTERY MEN (1999) 

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Ben Stiller
Hank Azaria
William H. Macy
Janeane Garofalo
Kel Mitchell
Paul Reubens
Geoffrey Rush
Greg Kinnear
Wes Studi
Lena Olin
Claire Forlani

Kinka Usher



Time: 120 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Comedy

I can't say I was too surprised when this film left me with a taste of disappointment in my mouth. It had great potential, much like its characters, but never quite jelled like it should have. The blame lies in a script that could have used a few more days of polish. The actors do the best with what they're given and many of them make the most of their individual screen moments. It's just not enough to make the movie enjoyable as a whole. Stiller and Garofalo are always highly amusing and don't disappoint here, but even their considerable talent is not enough to save this film from being completely mediocrity.

MYSTERY MEN is about a group of regular guys who cultivate their best skills into "super" powers to help fight crime in their city. Though they try their best – The Shoveler (Macy), who beats up people with a shovel; the Blue Rahja (Azaria), the master of cutlery he throws forks at people; and Mr. Furious (Stiller), who just gets really angry and beats on things – are more likely to hurt themselves then their enemies. No one cares about them because the city already has a super hero, Captain Amazing (Kinnear), who's pretty much wiped out crime and always swoops in to save the day. On the outside, Captain Amazing is a decent, hard-working crime fighter, but even super heroes have problems.

His success at ridding the city of evil has made him a millionaire through endorsements. However, since he's put everyone in jail or 6 feet underground, his backers are starting to pull out. No battles, means no news coverage, which means no more money for Captain Amazing. To keep his supporters happy, Captain Amazing helps facilitate the release of his arch-enemy, Casanova-Frankenstein (Rush) from the mental institution he's been held prisoner in for the last decade. Captain Amazing arrogantly believes he can still fight evil with the best of them, but his arrogance and years of no real competition have made him soft. It doesn't take long before he's at the total mercy of Casanova.

That leaves the fate of the city in the hands of the "mystery men". Try as they might to rescue Captain Amazing, Casanova has too many henchmen. The trio realizes that they need help and decides to recruit other super heros. The tryouts are not what you'd call a rousing success, but they do manage to add 3 members to the group: the Spleen (Reubens), who's farts can kill; the Invisible Boy (Mitchell), who believes he can turn invisible, but only when people aren't watching; and the Bowler (Garofalo), an angry young woman who throws a bowling ball containing her murdered father's skull with deadly skill and accuracy. They are initially successful, when they catch Casanova and his two henchman off guard, but their victory is short-lived. If it weren't for the quickness of the Sphinx (Studi), they would have been quickly dispatched by Casanova's disco-clad henchmen.

Unsure of how to proceed and knowing that they need help the group turns to the Sphinx for advice and training. Everyone is thrilled by their new progress except Mr. Furious who thinks the Sphinx is full of crap and goes his own way. On a date with a diner waitress he's been asking out for weeks, Mr. Furious finds himself again and decides to rejoin the group for the big rescue. Confident and with non-lethal, but powerful new weapons at their command, the group sets out for Casanova's mansion where a big party is taking place. Casanova has brought his old gang together and is going to reveal his big new plan for taking over the City. While they party upstairs, the Bowler, the Shoveler, Mr. Furious and the Blue Rahja manage to find Captain Amazing and attempt to rescue him. However, things don't go exactly as planned and they find themselves the city's last hope for salvation.

"We're not your classic heros. We're the other guys."

Needless to say, they band together and eventually beat the bad guys, each getting the chance to be the super hero they knew they could be. The ending isn't a huge surprise, nor is it extremely original, but it gets the job done. The special effects are actually quite good, but aren't anything you'll remember once the film is over. The actors do the best they can, with Garofalo and Stiller standing out. She has some wonderful moments between her and the bowling bowl containing her father's spirit. Stiller is always funny and his Mr. Furious just cracked me up. Everyone else was good, though Olin and Rush were completely wasted as the evil duo of the film. They weren't given much to do except act "evil" and that's just not good enough. On top of that, the fact that Casanova uses his gold fingernail as a weapon is too ridiculous to be believed. Kinnear was quite amusing as the smarmy Captain Amazing, but his character had very little screen time to make much of a difference.

MYSTERY MEN has some hysterical moments and if you like the lead actors you'll probably enjoy this movie more than you should. It's not the worst film ever made, however, it's not quite up to the talent involved.

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