Mystery Men is a 1999 American superhero comedy film directed by Kinka Usher and written by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden, loosely based on Burden's Flaming Carrot Comics, and starring Hank Azaria, Claire Forlani, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard, Greg Kinnear, William H. Macy, Kel Mitchell, Lena Olin, Paul Reubens, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Stiller, Wes Studi, and Tom Waits. The film details the story of a team of lesser superheroes with unimpressive powers who are required to save the day.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kinka Usher|
|Based on||Flaming Carrot Comics|
by Bob Burden
|Music by||Stephen Warbeck|
|Cinematography||Stephen H. Burum|
|Edited by||Conrad Buff|
Dark Horse Entertainment
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$33.5 million|
In Champion City, would-be superhero team of Mr. Furious, the Shoveler, and the Blue Raja attempt to make a name for themselves, but their suspect skills make them ineffective, and they find themselves upstaged by the city's most successful superhero, Captain Amazing. However, Amazing is finding that his effectiveness at fighting crime has practically made his job obsolete, and without any worthy adversaries remaining (most are either dead, in exile, or in jail), his corporate sponsors are beginning to pull their funding.
To create a need for himself, Amazing uses his alter ego, billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, to argue for the release of supervillain Casanova Frankenstein. The plan backfires; once reunited with Tony P and his Disco Boys, Casanova Frankenstein blows up the insane asylum, captures Amazing, and prepares to unleash the "Psycho-frakulator", which lethally bends reality. Mr. Furious, while spying on Casanova Frankenstein's mansion, discovers Amazing's capture and informs the others.
After an unsuccessful rescue attempt, the three realize that they need more allies, and through word-of-mouth and try-outs, they recruit Invisible Boy, the Spleen, and the Bowler. The newly formed team "assaults" Casanova, which only succeeds in annoying him and damaging his car. While drunk from celebrating their victory, the team is nearly killed in retaliation by Tony P and the Disco Boys, but they are saved at the last minute by the Sphinx. The Sphinx trains them, but his methods annoy Mr. Furious – he has them complete rote team-building exercises and speaks exclusively in Antimetabole. They also seek out Doc Heller, who specializes in non-lethal weaponry, to equip them for their battle.
The group breaks into Casanova's mansion during a gathering of several of the city's gangs; but, while attempting to free Captain Amazing, they inadvertently set off the Psycho-frakulator, killing him instead. Without Amazing, the team despairs of saving the city, but the Shoveler delivers a pep-talk that succeeds in uniting and inspiring them.
With new-found purpose, they assault the mansion and, by making effective use of their negligible superpowers and Heller's weapons, manage to subdue most of Casanova Frankenstein's henchmen. As the heroes approach Casanova Frankenstein, he reveals that he is holding Mr. Furious' girlfriend Monica hostage, and activates the Psycho-frakulator, which begins to wreak havoc upon the city.
While the team tries to stop the device, Mr. Furious takes on Casanova Frankenstein. After initially taking a beating, Mr. Furious unleashes his inner rage and manages to fight effectively for the first time. He defeats Casanova Frankenstein, who is thrown into the core of the Psycho-frakulator and killed by its reality-bending powers. The rest of the team helps The Bowler use her bowling ball to destroy the device and escape the mansion as it implodes.
The team is interviewed by reporters, begging to know their team name. As they argue among themselves, one reporter states "Well, whatever you may call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these 'Mystery Men'," but the others are too busy arguing to hear it.
- Hank Azaria as Jeff / The Blue Raja, a superhero that throws cutlery with great accuracy.
- Claire Forlani as Monica
- Janeane Garofalo as Carol / The Bowler, a superheroine with good bowling skills that wields a crystal bowling ball that contains the skull of her dead father Carmine the Bowler who had died fighting the Disco Boys.
- Eddie Izzard as Tony P., the leader of the Disco Boys.
- Greg Kinnear as Lance Hunt / Captain Amazing, Champion City's local superhero.
- William H. Macy as Eddy / The Shoveler, a quarry worker-turned-superhero that wields a shovel.
- Kel Mitchell as Invisible Boy, a superhero who can only become invisible if nobody is looking.
- Lena Olin as Dr. Anabel Leek
- Paul Reubens as The Spleen, a superhero who can break gas enough to make anybody who smells it faint.
- Geoffrey Rush as Casanova Frankenstein, a criminal genius with an assortment of weapons.
- Ben Stiller as Roy / Mr. Furious, a superhero that often gets enraged.
- Wes Studi as The Sphinx, a mysterious superhero who can use his mind to cut guns in half.
- Tom Waits as Dr. A. Heller, a mad scientist who aids the Mystery Men by making non-lethal weapons for them to use.
- Prakazrel Michel as Tony C.
- Ricky Jay as Victor Weems, Captain Amazing's publicist.
- Artie Lange as Red
- Louise Lasser as The Blue Raja's mother
The musical score for Mystery Men was composed by Stephen Warbeck. Written within a 28-day time span, the score was recorded on the Sony Scoring Stage. "I was quite liberal in the choice of instruments, because I've chosen a couple of Hungarian instruments, the tárogató and the cimbalom, and also a Greek instrument, the bouzouki," said Warbeck on the film's range of sounds. "And then Mike Fisher and the other percussionists have brought along an exciting range of stuff which are so interesting and varied that we keep picking bits of those and adding them in." After Warbeck's contributions were completed, the film's producers decided to alter various scenes. Because of this, composer Shirley Walker was brought in to create additional music and rearrange Warbeck's score to fit the new running time.
|1.||"Back In 1999"||John Oszajca||3:45|
|2.||"All Star"||Smash Mouth||3:19|
|3.||"Keep Keep Movin'"||Dub Pistols||3:42|
|4.||"The Mystery Men Mantra" (feat. Terry Bradford, Will Wheaton & Nancye Ferguson)||Mark Mothersbaugh||4:11|
|5.||"No Way"||Freak Power||4:14|
|6.||"Who Are Those Mystery Men" (feat. Romaine Jones)||Kel and the M.A.F.T. Emcees||4:08|
|7.||"Rainy Day Parade"||Jill Sobule||3:05|
|8.||"Sometimes"||Michael Franti & Spearhead||3:48|
|9.||"Won't You Come Down"||Spy||4:04|
|11.||"No More Heroes"||Violent Femmes||2:54|
|13.||"Disco Inferno"||The Trammps||3:34|
|14.||"Night Fever"||Bee Gees||3:30|
|15.||"Mystery Men Oath"||Ben Stiller & William H. Macy||0:42|
Additional songs featured in the film include:
In its opening weekend, Mystery Men grossed $10,017,865, ranking number six at the domestic box office. By the end of its run, on October 14, the film had grossed $29,762,011 domestically and $3,699,000 internationally, for a worldwide total of $33,461,011. Given its $68 million budget, the film is a box office bomb.
The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 60% (with a 5.7 out-of 10 average rating) based on 103 reviews; the consensus states: "Absurd characters and quirky gags are brought to life by a talented cast, providing this superhero spoof with lots of laughs." On Metacritic, the film has a 65/100 rating based on 24 critics, signifying "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
Jonathan Romney said that it was "a desperately hit-and-miss affair". Michael Dequina of The Movie Report said that it "fails to come up with worthy gags and one-liners for the able cast." Steve Murray of Cox News Service gave it a negative review, saying "Mystery Men is like its hapless heroes. It's a wannabe that has the best intentions – including a pronounced anti-gun stance – but none of the knack it takes to save the day, or itself."
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