There were films tied with two votes and I had to select which one to do first. In the end I decided through a simple coin toss. The second one you'll hear about tomorrow, the one that won was Mystery Men, a strange but fun parody of superhero movies. I actually had seen it once as a kid, though I barely remembered any of it outside of a handful of scenes and vague recollections some of the characters'... odd abilities. When that blogger told us to "pilfer" his bag of DVDs and I found a copy, I thought it might be fun to see again. I also knew that this film could easily have gone wrong, with its bizarre setup and over-the-top structure, but it actually works in a strange sort of way.
The action takes place in "Champion City", a location filled with wannabe superheroes. The only one who seems to actually be capable of getting anything done is "Captain Amazing" (Greg Kinnear), a superhero who has done such a great job that the city is starting to run out of supervillains. He gets desperate for some public attention and, using his completely inconspicuous secret identity, decides to have villain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) released from the psychiatric ward. Unfortunately it backfires when said villain manages to capture him and devises a sinister plan for global domination.
Meanwhile, a trio of unsuccessful superheroes try to fight crime on their own, all with their own questionable "powers" if you can call it that. The Shoveler (William H. Macy) is specialized in using a shovel, normally to hit people on the head. The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) is specialized in throwing forks, but keeps confusing everyone by the lack of blue in his costume and his fake English accent (apparently it makes sense if you know British history). Finally, Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller) has the superpower of getting really angry... and that's it. The three of them quickly realize it's up to them to rescue Captain Amazing and save the day.
Naturally, this dynamic trio has to find a bunch of other heroes to assist them. First they take on "Invisible Boy" (Kel Mitchell) who as his name implies can turn invisible... but only when nobody is looking at him. Also joining in is "Spleen" (Paul Reubens) who specializes in knocking people out with extreme flatulence. After a disastrous recruitment drive they manage to obtain assistance from "The Bowler" (Janeane Garofalo), the first person in the team who actually has a useful skill as well as some... unusual issues with her father. Finally rounding out the cast is "Sphinx" (Wes Studi) whose powers include slicing guns in half with his mind... and being mysterious.
I actually thought the film's interpretation of life as a superhero was an interesting one. Captain Amazing is this big-shot celebrity who basically sells himself out as a hero, complete with a publicist. We see him endorsing products and getting sponsors (which he displays all over his costume making it look more like he should be on a racetrack). It makes a certain degree of sense after all, even if his secret identity isn't publicly known. He's like your typical Batman or Superman hero taken to their logical extreme. In any other film, he'd be the hero, but instead we focus on, as the Shoveler puts it, "the other guys".
After all, in a world where superheroes not only exist and are respected, would there not also people who try to imitate them? The fact that we get to see this side, showing superheroes with varying degrees of uselessness (among the rejected superheroes are "The Waffler", who hits people with a waffle iron; and "Ballet Man" who doesn't seem to do much more than dance around). This is a side to superheroics you don't normally see in other films with maybe a partial exception featured in The Incredibles. I actually liked seeing this aspect of the world, and the filmmakers certainly came up with a variety of creatively absurd skills.
Aside from all the action, I did actually find the characters all had their own interesting elements that made them compelling. Everyone did a thorough performance with their role, giving each of the "Mystery Men" their own unique personality that made them easy to identify. They also all had a role of some sort to play. It never felt like any one character didn't belong, since as strange as their powers get everybody had something to contribute. Yes, even the guy who could only be invisible as long as nobody was looking manages to find an unexpected use for his power.
Mystery Men, despite technically being a misnomer (as there is one girl among them and only one is actually "mysterious") is a lot of fun. It's a very unusual superhero film with a lot of weird but enjoyable characters that will keep you going right up until the grand finale. The bizarre over-the-top world actually adds quite a bit to the tone of the film and the writers managed to take full advantage of it. Check it out, you'll be in for an enjoyable (if at times odd) treat.