Mystery Men

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

July 22, 1999

MYSTERY MEN. Huh. There might’ve been room for a big budget super hero parody movie in 1999, if you’re into that sort of thing, but it needed better jokes than “ha ha, this would be a terrible super hero. What a dumb name and costume.” This is an impressive cast in a big, expensive comedy with very few laughs.

A group of amateur super heroes – shovel-carrying The Shoveler (William H. Macy, THE LAST DRAGON), fork-throwing Blue Raja (Hank Azaria, HEAT) and leather-jacket wearing Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller, NEXT OF KIN) struggle to find success or recognition. They’re definitely meant to be lovable underdog misfits, but I had trouble respecting them. It’s established that there’s an actual super powered guy called Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear, THE MATADOR) who’s a douche and wears corporate logos like a NASCAR driver but he’s made Champion City so safe that he has to get his arch-nemesis Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush, MUNICH) released from the asylum just to have something to do. Before that happens the unnamed Mystery Men couldn’t be little guys trying to make a different in a harsh world – they’re delusional losers trying to feel important by forcing themselves into a job that they’re not needed for, and are really, really bad at. I did not find them appealing.

But Casanova manages to capture Captain Amazing, and Mr. Furious sees it happen, so they actually have something to do now. They have backyard auditions to try to recruit a larger team of wannabe heroes. Yes, there is a jump-cut montage of Dane Cook, Doug Jones, Dana Gould and others with dumb names like “Squeegee Man” and wearing really bad home made costumes. I guess because the Mystery Men have movie-quality bad costumes (designer: Marilyn Vance, STREETS OF FIRE, THE ROCKETEER) they’re allowed to look down on them.

Most of these characters don’t have powers, but The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo, COP LAND, THICK AS THIEVES) has a ball with a skull inside that’s haunted by her dad and flies around. She has a good line when she avenges her dad’s murder and immediately tells the ball that she’d going to grad school. “That was the agreement.”

There are very funny people in this movie, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that. Paul Reubens had to play a guy with a lisp and warts on his face whose skill is powerful farts. He’s basically a Garbage Pail Kid. Azaria, you see he’s funny because he does a British accent but it’s not his real accent. Kel Mitchell (BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES) does get some mileage as the clueless Invisible Boy. I would not say the same for Eddie Izzard (VALKYRIE) or Pras from the Fugees, who play The Disco Boys. See, because they have bellbottoms and stuff, they like disco. Izzard doesn’t even seem sold on the concept and only half-asses the dance moves.

I guess the funniest part is when they go to train with a guru called The Sphinx (Wes Studi, STREET FIGHTER, UNDISPUTED), and only Mr. Furious isn’t taken in by his formulaic fortune cookie platitudes like “He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions.” When Furious gets fed up, Sphinx says “Your temper is very quick, my friend. But until you learn to master your rage–”

“…your rage will become your master?” he interrupts. “That’s what you were going to say, right? Right?”

“Not necessarily.”

But for me Stiller fails to balance being the one guy with common sense but also a cartoonish idiot out of one of his sketches. The worst part is his courting of diner waitress Monica (Claire Forlani, THE ROCK, POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW), a generic dreamgirl who teaches him how to be himself, and it’s played seriously as if we’re supposed to be invested in their relationship.

An okay gag is that they argue about whether Captain Amazing and Lance Hunt are the same guy, most arguing that they can’t be because Lance Hunt has glasses. A not good gag is when weapon designer Dr. Heller (Tom Waits, presumably being paid twice what Mojo Nixon was paid for SUPER MARIO BROS.) is demonstrating different weapons and one is called a “blame-thrower” and it makes people blame each other for stuff. Really, that’s all you got is a thing that’s dumb but rhymes with flamethrower? How was everybody satisfied with that?

Rush is good, playing his character very straight, and it’s kind of a cool idea that he’s some kind of ladies man evil genius. But that’s not enough.

I’m not even sure what precisely they’re parodying here. X-MEN came out the next year, so there weren’t even super hero team movies yet. At its best, it does a good job of mimicking Joel Schumacher’s pans through a dark, exaggerated metropolis, and it has themed gangs like those movies. One of them is called the Frat Boys and one of them (with a line even) is Michael Bay. But man, these joke super hero concepts are a nickel a thousand. They kind of make me sad.

MYSTERY MEN is written by Neil Cuthbert (THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING, HOCUS POCUS, THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH), sort of based on side characters from Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot Comics. It’s the only feature by commercial director Kinka Usher. Despite an aggressive marketing campaign, it opened in sixth place, beneath other debuts THE SIXTH SENSE and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, as well as holdovers THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, RUNAWAY BRIDE and DEEP BLUE SEA. It did do better than THE IRON GIANT and DICK, also released that week.

It ended up grossing less than half its $68 million budget.

That’s pretty expensive for a comedy, and they tried to turn this into a thing. There was a two-part movie adaptation published by Dark Horse Comics. And there were action figures from a company called Playing Mantis. By this time, thanks to the influence of SPAWN creator Todd McFarlane, these were starting to be made specifically for grown collectors rather than kids. But not every movie had action figures, and MYSTERY MEN did.

And check out this art that I found on promotional pins and t-shirts. I’m not sure if they made actual posters of these, but they seem like direct descendants of the CONEHEADS posters, which I felt evolved out of the DICK TRACY and BATMAN posters. They’re still going for an iconic silhouette type of thing but, as with CONEHEADS, the emphasis is on the eye-catching background colors. Kind of a pop art look.

The actual movie posters, like the one bottom right, look closer to the BATMAN FOREVER and BATMAN & ROBIN posters.

And just like the Schumacher movies this had a soundtrack with a random jumble of bands, in this case including Dub Pistols, Jill Sobule and Violent Femmes. “All Star” by Smash Mouth plays as soon as the end credits start. I don’t think it brought me such pain at the time but now I heard the fuckin thing from watching the movie and it’s been harassing my brain for days. Fuck you, “All Star.” Leave me alone.

According to my research, the song came out a couple months before the movie and its soundtrack, but the video (directed by McG) opens with footage from the scene where they audition the different bad super heroes. And the Smash Mouth guy rescues a dog from a fire I guess to be a super hero or whatever. And they kind of pretend that they are in different clips from the movie. At the end there are some lookalikes that you see only from the back. I would embed it for you to study but I don’t know how to set it on mute.

The song “Sometimes” by Michael Franti & Spearhead is also on the end credits. That seems pretty random, but then, so does this movie.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 24th, 2017 at 1:53 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “Mystery Men”

  1. I watched this recently for the first time, and I strained to like it just because I like so many members of the cast, but boy, I didn’t.

    There’s an old line from Mr. Show, something about how they bring people “to the verge of laughter.” This brought me to the verge of nearly everything: laughter, exictement, interest, you name it.

  2. Coincidentally my brother and I have talking about re-watching this one for the last few months. We’ve always remembered liking it. Since it’s from my (teen) childhood that makes it above criticism and will insist that you are wrong and you just ‘didn’t get it’. I have not seen it since VHS so you may very well be right that it will not hold up in my mind.

    We were also talking about it seems this movie’s lasting legacy will be helping introduce the world to ‘All Star’ as well. That’s enough reason to hate it as it seemed to pop up everywhere for years after it came out.

  3. Crushinator Jones

    July 24th, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Vern, I think you nailed why this doesn’t work. The Mystery Men are kinda pathetic assholes. They’re chumps. It would be one thing if they were legitimate nice people who tried to go that extra mile and be super heroes and got shit on. But they are actually losers (Shoveler neglects his family, Blue Raja is a dweeb who lives with his mom, Mr. Furious is just an asshole with rage issues) who use superheroing as an escape. And so it comes off as bad. It’s even worse when they incompetently kill Captain Amazing! And so you never feel like they have a moral core that they aren’t able to express. They just seem like escapists.

  4. Ha ha – I didn’t even mention (SPOILER) what they did to Captain Amazing. That’s a pretty strong argument against their participation in super heroing.

  5. When it comes to comedy I’m not even going to try to defend it or get into fights or whatever. I know that some of you are going to also find this short list of movies really funny and some of you are going to think I’m insane but these comedies that I think are hilarious that the majority of the people in this world do not.

    Mystery Men
    Hudson Hawk
    and the funniest movie ever that everybody seems to hate for reasons I’ll never understand, The Cable Guy.

    There are funny movies out there that I don’t really find funny that everybody thinks is hilarious.

    I will say, though, that Vern’s review is about as good of a review as one could get where after reading it thinking that I can totally understand where he is coming from and didn’t make me feel stupid for finding it funny. Thanks Vern.

  6. While I wholly disagree with your assessment of the movie, it’s not surprising. I think there’s a very tiny demographic that enjoyed this movie-it’s the late 90s MTV generation…the older end of the “millenial” spectrum. The people who grew up watching Beavis and Butthead, Sifl and Olly, Wayne’s World, Bill and Ted, Real World, Road Rules-that type of stuff. Mystery Men came out my senior year of high school, and this movie has ALWAYS cracked me up.

    When you lament that Rubens is “basically a Garbage Pail Kid” then mission accomplished. The generation that likes this movie knows and understands both Garbage Pail Kids and Paul Reubens, so they’re cool with it (or at least get it).

    I’d take it any day over Generic Seth Rogen is a vulgar bachelor cussing and farting and drinking movie #69, baby!

  7. I remember thinking this one had some good gags but that it was a bit too toothless to really work. The SPOILERing of Captain Amazing made me think it was intended as more of a dark comedy a la CABLE GUY but somewhere along the way the budget went up and it had to get more straightforward.

    I’m actually kind of surprised to see it in the SUMMER FLINGS series because It’s definitely not a forgotten film like many of the others in the series. MB is right that it does have a bit of a cult. I see it mentioned in a positive light all the time.

    Also “I shovel well. I shovel very well” is something I say pretty much every time I shovel. As far as I’m concerned that’s maximum cultural penetration.

  8. flyingguillotine

    July 24th, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I read Flaming Carrot back in the day, and I thought that was funny, so funny underlying property plus funny cast had to equal a super funny movie, right?

    Vern, you identified one of the only inspired moments in this whole film. Which is too bad, since I thought Wes Studi’s delivery was really funny; I suspect he hasn’t gotten too many offers to do comedy, and it’s unfortunate that the one time he gets to be funny, and actually is funny, is in this otherwise mostly terrible movie.

    I haven’t seen it since the theater, but I recall two more moments I found vaguely amusing. The first: when Mr. Furious gets frustrated with something in act one, and dramatically works a squeeze ball. Second: when Geoffrey Rush is giving his big villain speech, and he punctuates it with, “Can you dig it? Caaaaaaan yoooouuuuu dig it?!” I don’t usually like reference humor, but I was reaching hard for anything to enjoy. Both moments gave me a sensible chuckle.

  9. In the early ’00s I was forced to spend a few days in one of those chain hotels that only have one movie channel proudly advertised all over the place, and this was one of the movies that played at least four times during my stay.

    To be honest, if it wasn’t for the presence of comedic actors, I would have had no idea this was even trying to be a comedy. Yet, I’ve since run into six or seven people who have informed me that it’s “great” and “totally misunderstood”

    I’m still unsure as to what exactly I didn’t understand, but it’s not like I’m ever going to watch it again to find out.

  10. Sternshein, most folks around here love Hudson Hawk and Freaked. I bet you could find a lot of Cable Guy supporters too.

    ’99 May have been the last time you could make a movie mocking superheroes for people you expected didn’t know what superheroes were. But even then it was probably too late.

    I remember this was expected to be #1 with that cast and Stiller coming off Something About Mary. Then that little horror mystery blew it out of the water.

  11. Fred, I’m talking about out in the real world and not in our world of people who know their shit.

  12. I’ve always liked it, but not because it was outrageously funny. It isn’t really that kind of comedy.

    I’ve always liked the idea of superheroes, while at the same time finding them ridiculous and absurd. When playing superhero RPGs with my buddies I’d always make characters that were against type in some way. One was “Scapegoat” who did his best to take the blame for whatever the villain had done so they could get a chance at redemption. I also had “Rags” who was a cybernetic android poodle who never said anything but “Ruf ruf, my name is Rags, I am a super hero.” There were others…

    So it is with stuff like Mystery Men and The Tick. They poke fun at the genre and subvert its traditions while at the same time paying homage to it. Basically, it’s “here is a bunch of stuff which is really stupid if you think about it, but honestly, we really like this shit at the same time.”

    The Tick does a better job of the same shtick, but it’s not exactly double over laughing funny either. It’s more a mental wink and nod that makes you smile rather than laugh.

    Of course, I’m not saying you are wrong, only that this is a niche film for a niche audience, folks like me, not a really good audience to be targeting I think.

  13. I loved this movie and saw it at least twice in the theater. For me the over-the-top ridiculousness of it all was what made it fun.

    Vern, I know you’ve seen and disliked a fair number of “regular shmuck becomes a superhero” type movies (such as KICK ASS) because of the way that we’re expected to identify with the self-involved fanboy POV of the protagonist. But I don’t think MYSTERY MEN has that same identification angle. The Mystery Men are supposed to be absurd and foolish. The whole thing is 1990s-ironic in a way that superhero movies can’t be anymore (at least not without provoking fanboy wrath). I’d say this is more of a TANK GIRL than a KICK ASS, if that helps.

    For me there’s plenty of humor:

    The visual gags. I like when the Shoveler accidentally runs over one of his kid’s toys (it squeals pathetically), and when he tries to pull it out from under the wheel its head comes off. I like when Mr. Furious laughs and the piece of bloody Kleenex in his nose flies out. I love the mock-serious moment when the pimped-out Mystery Men step out dramatically from the smoke on the eve of their final battle. There’s humor in the art direction too – for example, I also like how the Invisible Boy’s bedroom is just plastered with pictures. To me all this is like a sillier Terry Gilliam movie – it creates a weird world full of outrageous characters.

    The performances. William H. Macy playing it so utterly, hilariously straight. Geoffrey Rush saying to his men “get down and boogie” and doing this little wiggle with his hands. Greg Kinnear saying “Aw dang” as he falls over into unconsciousness, and his mouth does this silly “b-b-b-b-b” as Rush gloats over him. Janeane Garofalo turning down smelly Spleen’s advances (“There’s not enough beer in the world, Spleen, I’m sorry”) with just the right mix of annoyance and apology.

    And the dialogue:
    “We can’t just run!” “Yes! Yes, it’s been established that we can run!”
    “Spleen, I won’t stand behind you, but I’ll fight beside you.”
    The Bowler’s father’s suspicious death – “he fell down an elevator shaft. Onto some bullets.”
    “We killed him!” “What do you mean, ‘we’? I was right here.”
    Mr. Furious struggling to think of cool lines to say, and seldom managing it. Especially when he criticizes his colleagues: “I’m dealing with Lazy Boy, and, and, and … and the Recliner!”
    The final line when it looks like the group are going to finally get their name … and it doesn’t happen.
    I even like the shamelessness of the “disco is automatically funny” humor, especially when our heroes unwisely try to point out the flaws in the bigger, tougher Disco Boys’ “theme.” (“What do guns have to with disco?”, “If you’re going to carry a chain, at least make it a gold chain!” etc.)

    And that’s just from memory. I haven’t watched this film in a good ten years, and now I want to.

  14. I remember enjoying this movie at the time but man this review makes it sound like it hasn’t aged well (or was never that good to begin with). Sure it was a bit too long (over 2 hours!!) and took too long to get going, but i remember the Sphinx stuff being hilarious and as Sternshein hinted at earlier, some of the wackier comedy bits like the forks and the ridiculous pinky nail-cam fight scene at the end seemed like it wouldn’t be out of place in Hudson Hawk, which is a complement in my book. And who am I kidding – the main draw for me was seeing Kel Mitchell in his first post-Good Burger role, and even though you can see the payoff to his storyline coming from a mile away, he brought real heart to the movie- I remember the theater actually cheering for his big moment which probably sounds insane to you guys. Oh yeah, even though sometimes I have a problem with superhero-murder, I actually kinda liked that Janeane Garofalo and Ben Stiller straight up kill people at the end. (Probably because Stiller was built up to be a buffoon and you figure he’d win the final mano-a-mano Jar Jar Binks-style, but no, he just violently throws an Oscar Winning Actor into a laser with his rage. That’s awesome.)

    Btw, I also remember enjoying this a helluva lot better than the competing wacky superhero spoof The Specials, which despite having an equally good cast (Rob Lowe, Thomas Haden Church, Judy Greer) was borderline unwatchable. I always thought James Gunn directed that one but I just checked IMDB and it was actually just written by Gunn and directed by Craig Mazin, aka Ted Cruz’s former roommate who kept shit-talking him on twitter last year – at least he redeemed himself!

  15. Anybody remember AMC’s “Cinema Secrets” show they used to run on Friday nights, early 2000s, usually before a monster flick? They did a MYSTERY MEN segment where Stan Winston was hyping the practical/CGI combo they used for the skull bowling ball like it was sure to be regarded as a T2-style effects breakthrough by future generations – funny stuff. Never seen the actual movie, always assumed it was one of those CABIN BOY type failed attempts to break 90s alternative comedy people/stylings that tried to cruise on weirdness and charm rather than actually being really funny with lots of good jokes and shit.

    They also did a segment about the WILD WILD WEST spider on that show as well, funny enough.

  16. Amazingly enough I saw MYSTERY MEN in theaters as a kid and I can’t remember why, nor do I remember liking it, I remember liking the eye popping visuals and it was fun to see Kel Mitchell of Nickelodeon’s KENAN AND KEL on the big screen, but that’s about it.

    1999 is pretty much my favorite year of my movies that I saw in the theater, I saw almost every big movie that year from from THE MATRIX to THE SIXTH SENSE and AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME and enjoyed most of them, even as I mentioned WILD WILD WEST but MYSTERY MEN was one of the few duds.

    However I’d like to rewatch it and have a feeling I might enjoy it better now because I have a confession to make, I’ve increasingly been becoming more and more obsessed with “turn of the millennium” culture (basically from 1997 to 2002), it’s not nostalgia in the purest sense in that I think it’s a particularly great period of pop culture, in fact a lot of it is bad, but it’s bad in a way that is utterly fascinating to me.

    I meant to mention this in the JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS review but never did, but that movie’s depiction of a world slathered in corporate logos captures something about the culture of that era eerily perfectly.

  17. Griff, it is a fascinating little window of time. Y2K fear alone, plus the thought that we’d be living in the future but then nothing really changed. Well, we don’t have flying cars but the iPhone is some Star Trek shit right there.

  18. Aaaaaaaand another summer fling that I really like! I even took my DJ name from it! (Psychofrakulator) Okay, I do agree that it’s not as funny as it should (and could) be and it’s definitely too long. (But comedies in general shouldn’t run longer than 80 minutes IMO. Only very few work for a longer runtime.) But apart from that, I love it!

    Side note: This might have been the last potential tentpole movie, that was dumped straight to video oversees, after it bombed in the US. I remember seeing the trailer in theatres, there was even a huge banner hanging on the multiplex wall (which I had to walk past every time I had to go to the bathroom,so you could say it was a good spot, where people looked at it!) and then…nothing! It just disappeared and a few months later re-appeared with zero advertising in my local videostore.

  19. BTW, just like Branagh in WWW, it was very unusual to see Geoffrey Rush doing such a movie back in 99. The same year HAUNTED HILL came out and afterwards he did an interview, where he mentioned how he tried two popcorn movies, but they didn’t do too well and he didn’t really enjoy making them, so he will be now doing more of the arthouse drama stuff, that he is known for. Of course he obviously changed his mind a few years later.

  20. I haven’t seen this film in years, but I was a fan. I always associate it with Y2K rather than the summer though, because that’s when it was released in the UK. I didn’t see it in cinemas, but it did have (what seemed to me at the time) a fairly high profile, well-advertised release here, so clearly they didn’t give up on it despite its poor US performance.

    MB- This doesn’t anything away from your theory because there are always exceptions, but I can tell you this was a bit of a “family standard” in my household, and is still one of my mom’s “touchpoint” films (although I don’t think she’s actually seen it in about 12 years). She was in her early 40s at the time, she’s always had fairly youthful tastes in many areas, but as a limey she wouldn’t have even been aware of some of the 90s Americana this was feeding into. My grandparents (in their early 70s then) also seemed to enjoy it a lot.

    Griff- I have, in the last couple of years, developed a fascination with the pre-9/11 2000s stuff. There’s some crossover with dodgy stuff from the late 90s, but when the calendar hit those three 0s, man the floodgates really burst open. Were we just so happy to have survived Y2K that we just accepted *anything*?

    As a Brit, I find it particularly fascinating in retrospect that Nu-Metal was so popular here (and, yes, Smashmouth’s ALL STAR was Top 5 here too). We had never really gone for grunge for the most part, nor hair metal, and even hip-hop wasn’t really the cultural force it was in the US at this point, so where did this come from for us?

    From catching bits and pieces of its many showings on British TV recently, I think COYOTE UGLY is probably the film that best surmises what was so awful about most pop-culture in this era; somehow simultaneously bland and tasteless, but weirdly fascinating.

  21. Pacman, I can imagine the popularity of NuMetal in the UK comes from its crossover style. Your country was very receptive to genre mixing in the 90s (See: the success of Big Beat) and it’s obvious than when some young bands suddenly decided to play metal, but with some guy punching a drum computer instead of a real drummer, a DJ scratching the backing vocals and lyrics that are mostly rapped than sung, of course your country responded to it. You can’t give The Prodigy or the Chemical Brothers a shit ton of top 10 and #1 hits and then ignore the people who were influenced by them.

  22. BTW, anybody remembers that weird internet conspiracy that Kinka Usher was actually Tim Burton? Of course it was bullshit and easily refuted. (There were also people who thought that SWORDFISH was actually directed by Tarantino.)

  23. Pacman2.0 – pre-9/11 2000s is the main thing but I also have a fascination with 2002, you have to remember, not literally everything changed immediately after 9/11, 2002 is still very much a year of that cultural moment albeit it’s twilight days.

    And this is something I can speak from personal experience, not just pop culture analysis, since I lived through it, but the attitude was yeah 9/11 was bad but it’s your patriotic duty to keep your spirits up (remember Giuliani actually going on SNL the week after 9/11 and telling America it was ok to laugh again), it wasn’t until the actual aftermath effects of 9/11 started to be felt, namely the start of the Iraq war in 2003, did things change completely.

    Just to be clear, I am a massive nostalgia junkie, I mean anything to escape the fucking nightmare we are living in, so I don’t love the late 90s, early 00s as much as I love the 80s and early 90s, that’s peak pop culture nostalgia for me, but it’s simply another era I have a fascination with, hell I’ve even been feeling the earliest onsets of late 00s, early 10s nostalgia.

  24. Crushinator Jones

    July 25th, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Oh Griff, you think this is a nightmare? Things are about to get far, far worse.

  25. Good write up, Vern. Sad they only used The Shoveller

  26. Whoa, premature post. Shoveler and Mr. Furious were only original guys from the Flaming Carrot comics version of the Mystery Men. Missed out on Screwball and Bondo Man! Those were fun comics. Burden was trying to do blue collar comic book heroes who had other jobs and shit but I guess to Hollywood that translates to “losers.” The Burden books were funny and absurd and both of those traits were missing from the movie.

  27. It’s interesting cause prior to this review and thread I had no idea Bob Burden himself was involved with this movie. I always avoided it but now I kinda want to finally see it

  28. **I might be mis-remembering this or it is incorrect info so please take it with a grain-of-salt!**

    I think the story goes that they wanted to make a FLAMING CARROT movie but Burden refused and let them have the Mystery Men instead. If I’m remembering right, he wasn’t supportive of the movie and naturally didn’t care for it. This lead him to get some creator/artist-cred by not (fully) selling out to ‘the man.’

    That’s what I remember one of my brothers telling me at least.

    **If this information is incorrect please correct me!**

  29. Crushinator Jones – That’s what I’m afraid of.

  30. Huh. So this was supposed to be a big summer comedy smash at the time? I had no idea. I remember when this appeared on cable TV in East Asia , presumably shortly after it came out, thinking it must be a low-budget indie comedy with a few decent cast members. Most of these actors were still pretty low-profile at that time, I think (Stiller was a couple years before MEET THE PARENTS and ZOOLANDER, Macy was only a couple years after FARGO, Rush had mainly done prestige pieces, …). It seemed to appear out of nowhere and I gave it a pass for that reason.

    I remember this having some decent moments which I found funny, many listed in previous posts. Not enough for me to make it all the way through to the end though. And there was definitely stuff I didn’t like … e.g. playing five seconds of some song every few minutes just to get it on the soundtrack.

    I also didn’t mind that the characters were loser schmucks playing at being heroes. Maybe that comes from not having any interest in the superhero genre, or maybe it’s because I’m more or less a loser schmuck myself. I dunno.

    On the subject of comedy, ultimately I think something just hits your funny bone or it doesn’t. I personally don’t think there’s much point trying to analyse comedy and prove why it is or isn’t funny; to me that’s like trying to argue that a certain cheese is objectively good: you can analyse its taste, health benefits, cost, etc, but if somebody says they just don’t like it there’s not much you can say to convince them.

    I still can’t stand HUDSON HAWK though.

  31. Numpty, guess you won’t be attending the hat convention in July.

  32. Shudder …

  33. I liked this film quite a bit. I loved Macy as this group’s “Captain America”. He’s the most competent of the MM, but that’s not saying much.

    fil – although I’m not familiar at all with the source material, I remember reading at the time that The Spleen was also based on a character in the comic. I remember this because the writer who mentioned it wrote that while they toned down most of the characters from the comic, they actually made The Spleen more disgusting.

  34. “it opened in sixth place, beneath other debuts THE SIXTH SENSE and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, as well as holdovers THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, RUNAWAY BRIDE and DEEP BLUE SEA. It did do better than THE IRON GIANT and DICK, also released that week.”

    Holy crap! What a great line up of movies. I can’t imagine any one week this summer will have that many memorable films in the top ten all at once.

  35. Dick was also fucking hilarious. Possibly the second best Richard Nixon comedy.

  36. DICK is also one of the best “Now here is the true story of certain historic event” comedies. I’m surprised it’s not better known. It frequently pops up on “underrated 90s movies” lists, but never really seems to break out.

  37. The MYSTERY MEN enjoyer has logged on. Recently purchased Kino Lorber’s new 4K Blu-Ray of this, and revisited it for what may be my first time since VHS. But I must’ve watched that VHS fifty times, because I remembered nearly every line. It was like reminiscing with an old friend. If I came to this for the first time now, I probably wouldn’t like it as much. The jokes are dumb and it’s barely distinguishable now from the Schumacher Batman and the gothic and/or baroque old-timey pulp adventure stuff it’s ostensibly parodying. But thanks to nostalgia, I still find it charming. And it has a cast of, you guessed it, all stars.

    Yes, it’s a movie about a bunch of guys who suck, but with 20+ years distance, and as a guy who sucks, I can relate to them more. My dreams haven’t panned out either. I see myself in Mr. Furious’s insecurity and impotent rage, Blue Raja’s loneliness and manchildhood, Invisible Boy’s desire to (not) be seen, the Shoveler humbly trying to dig his way out of the hole his life has become, the Bowler still being trapped by her father’s expectations even though he’s a head in a bowling ball. Shmucks and losers all, but they won’t quit.

    Also, would you believe Cee-Lo plays an evil rapper henchman in this?

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