Mystery Men

1999, Movie, PG-13, 111 mins


If, as a child, you revered costumed superheroes above all, you're the audience for this knowing parody of comic book conventions. Somewhere in Champion City, a trio of second-string crime-fighters is waiting for a big break. Roy (Ben Stiller) becomes leather-clad Mr. Furious, whose superpower is that he gets really, really mad. Hen-pecked Eddie (William H. Macy) wields a mean shovel, though his wife's (Jenifer Lewis) imaptience with his do-gooding is putting a strain on their marriage. And the Blue Rajah (Hank Azaria), who dons an English accent with his turban, lives at home with his mom (Louise Lasser) and flings her flatware at bad guys. They're toiling in the long shadow of Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), who's got the local superhero action sewn up. He's got a cool costume, an agent (Ricky Jay) and corporate endorsements. The trouble is, he's already put the resident super-fiends out of business. So he frees flamboyant sociopath Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) from the looney bin; Frankenstein, naturally, immediately kidnaps Captain Amazing. Can he be saved by our hapless heroes, and their pals Spleen (Paul Reubens), who triumphs through flatulence; Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), whose invisibility is sporadic; the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), who gets an assist from her late dad (his skull is embedded in her bowling ball); and the Sphinx (Wes Studi), their aphoristic mentor? Based on characters invented by Flaming Carrot creator Bob Burden, this loving parody is steeped in comic book trivia and lore: The more you know, the more heartfelt your response to the film is likely to be. The rest of us will have to make do with sights like pompadored disco-thug Tony P (Eddie Izzard) and his tiger-print jumpsuit-clad sidekick Tony C (Prakazrel Michel), whose afro would eclipse the sun were it ever to shine in Champion City. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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