Mystery Men

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Mystery Men

Mystery Men was a 1999 comedy film directed by TV commercial director Kinka Usher. It starred William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, and Hank Azaria as a trio of lesser superheroes with fairly unimpressive superpowers who need to save the day. more...

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The film's two great strengths were considered to be the art direction and the dialog, much of which was improvised by the cast. Despite its list of stars, Mystery Men was widely considered to be a flop. The final gross - approximately $33,000,000 - covered just over half of its production costs.


The film took place in a slightly altered reality, where costumed crimefighters seemed to be in oversupply, to the point that most of them are looking for work, and usually have a "day job". The core group of protagonists were three such individuals, who appeared to be old friends who had been a team for many years, without much success. Macy played The Shoveller, whose ability was to wield a shovel extremely well. Stiller played Mr. Furious, who had the 'ability' to get very, very angry. Azaria played The Blue Raja, a self-described "effete British superhero" who wears a turban and throws silverware (forks and spoons, but not knives - "I'm not Stab Man. I'm not Knifey Boy. I'm the Blue Raja") at villains with high precision.

Captain Amazing (played by Greg Kinnear), Champion City's most famous and respected superhero, faced a problem: he was running out of supervillains to defeat. When his public image suffered, as did his corporate sponsorships (his costume is covered with company logos, NASCAR style). He secretly arranged the release of his greatest adversary, Casanova Frankenstein (played by Geoffrey Rush), from an insane asylum, hoping to revitalize his reputation by once again facing the criminal mastermind. Frankenstein captured Amazing and put into motion a plan to destroy Champion City.

Also appearing were Janeane Garofalo as The Bowler (who carried the skull, and soul, of her murdered father in a bowling ball which can fly); Kel Mitchell as The Invisible Boy (who could only become invisible when absolutely no one is watching, including himself); Paul Reubens as The Spleen (who could aim his highly noxious flatulence with great precision); Wes Studi as The Sphinx (who could cut guns in half with his mind, and acted as a mentor to the misfit superheroes, uttering cryptic but ultimately unhelpful aphorisms); Tom Waits as the eccentric scientist Dr. Heller, who only invented "non-lethal" weaponry such as the Tornado in a Can; and Claire Forlani as Monica, the slightly jaded but goodhearted cafeteria waitress, who appeared to be perhaps the most intelligent character in the film.

The characters' home lives are portrayed as thoroughly middle class American; however Champion City more closely resembles the multicultured metropolis of Blade Runner than the purely American locations of other superhero movies. Signs and newspapers are in a mix of English, Russian, Chinese, Korean, and the occasional Hebrew lettering. Rickshaws ran through the dark and misty streets, while stretched-Corvette limousines cruised through gleaming brightly-lit tunnels.


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