Oct 25, 2013

[Movies] Mystery Men (1999)

There are always going to be those movies that were bad, but in a good way. They're the ones that stick with us through the years for one reason or another. A larger part of their appeal has to do with other memories or nostalgia triggers from when the movie came out. Or maybe little elements in the movie that hold some significance to us.

Mystery Men is one of those movies that I hold dear to my heart even though it wasn't a particularly good movie. It was such a 90's movie ranging from the fact that Smash Mouth sang the title song "All Star" and one of the more memorable actresses in the movie is Janeane Garofalo. But as silly as the movie is, it was still a lot of fun and one that I honestly enjoyed.

I think the movie appealed to me so much since it was essentially a celebration of superhero stories at their campiest. With most superhero movies trying to go for the ultra-realistic route, this movie didn't care about all that and just went with the craziest ideas that they could come up with. And because of that fearlessness, it worked on some odd level, even though it also remains terribly stupid.

Synopsis: Mystery Men is a 1999 superhero comedy movie directed by Kinka Usher. It was written by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden, especially given the story was loosely based on the Burden's characters from his Flaming Carrot Comics.

In the fictional metropolis of Champion City, everyone aspires to be as great as Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). And everyone includes some would-be heroes like Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Shoveler (William H. Macy) and The Blue Rajah (Hank Azaria). With with strange abilities like getting really angry, shoveling really well and throwing silverware other than knives respectively, they have yet to really prove themselves to be even just halfway decent heroes.

However Captain Amazing has been a little too amazing at his job and crime is at an all-time low. Thus in order to create a continued need for his aid (and to encourage more endorsement deals), he decides to leverage his billionaire alter ego to get one of his formal enemies, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) released. But this plan backfires given Casanova and his allies manage to capture Captain Amazing. Mr. Furious was able to learn of his capture and thus recruits The Shoveler and The Blue Rajah to rescue the Captain. But they realize that they are unable to save him alone and so they reach out to other would-be heroes to bolster their ranks and hopefully stand a better chance of getting past Casanova's forces.

More than anything else, the characters in this movie are what really sold me. After all, we're dealing with quite the motley crew with a host of ridiculous non-powers. Apart from our three heroes, they're eventually joined by The Spleen (Paul Rubens) with the power of flatulence, Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), who can turn invisible only when no one is looking, The Bowler (Jeneane Garofalo), who wields a magical bowling ball that contains the skull of her father, and The Sphinx (Wes Studi), who is very mysterious. Seriously, I doubt any of us could foresee how this band of heroes could stand against even basic criminal flunkies armed with actual weapons, but they do manage to find a way in the long run.

The movie follows the basic pattern of a bunch of losers (both as heroes and in their regular lives) finding a way to better themselves and find the confidence within themselves to be the heroes that they always want to be. Sure, everyone loves a new costume and the addition of strange non-lethal weapons certainly helped things along, but in the end it was up to them as individuals to simply stand up. And so yes, each gets their moment in the spotlight to highlight their rather limited but surprisingly useful abilities.

Everyone is over the top in this movie. And that's why it work, quite frankly. Of course if you don't enjoy campy, hammy characters, then you probably won't enjoy the movie at all. But if you do have a bit of a B-movie fetish or a love for sad, pathetic characters, then you just might find a way to enjoy things. And yes, this is a movie that has Geoffrey Rush as a crazy mad scientist and his closest allies being the Disco Boys, one of whom was portrayed by Eddie Izzard.

Mystery Men is never going to rank all that high among the best superhero movies ever made. But it's one that remains to be geekily fun and one that I will always enjoy re-watching. And who knows, maybe you might find a reason to like it as well. Thus from my perspective, I can rate the movie as 4 conversations between The Bowler and her dead father's spirit out of a possible 5.

I found this website that claims Mystery Men is really some allegory for the struggle between Christianity and the Freemasons. You gotta love the internet!

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