Top positive review
The Avengers they are not
on 10 September 2017
It’s hard to imagine a year go by where you don’t see someone in a latex body-stocking flying through the sky while buildings crumble all around them. Or, in other words, a superhero movie. Marvel’s dominance reigns supreme these days and DC does its best to mop up any gap in the filmic calendar year that Marvel don’t already have a stranglehold on. However, back in the ‘olden days’ of 1999, just dressing someone up in a silly costume wasn’t enough to guarantee a billion dollars at the Box Office. That’s probably why ‘Mystery Men’ never really made much of an impact back then and only really fills a niche gap in the market today. We’re introduced to a world of superheroes, or rather ONE superhero – the unsubtly-titled ‘Captain Amazing’ – a man who has dedicated his life to protecting the city from wrong-doers and has therefore enjoyed all the lucrative benefits that come with it, i.e. corporate sponsorship and women. In fact, he’s protected the city so well that there’s hardly a super villain left worthy enough to take him on. So, while he spends much of his time as his (completely unrecognisable, glasses-wearing) alter-ego, it’s up to another band of ‘heroes’ to mop up the few thieves still daring to snatch old ladies’ purses. However, these heroes are anything but ‘super.’ Their ‘powers’ are unusual at best. We have a man who gets angry to the point of, er, being very angry. A man who puts on a fake British accent while he throws forks and a guy who hits people with a shovel. Not a Batarang to be seen among them!
Nowadays, when you look at the cast of ‘Mystery Men’ it almost reads like a who’s who of Hollywood. Yet, back then all the stars seemed to be faces who you kind of knew because you’d seen them before in… oh, you know… it was him out of that thing on TV. You have Ben Stiller, William H Macy, Greg Kinnear, Eddie Izzard and Geoffrey Rush to name but a few. It’s a pretty impressive ensemble, so I always wondered why it was never bigger than it seemed to be. I guess at the time people may have thought it was a superhero movie and, due to the public seemingly thinking that all superhero movies were like ‘Batman and Robin’ they stayed away, plus Ben Stiller’s star hadn’t quite peaked back then, so it couldn’t ride on his future post ‘Something About Mary’ popularity. Plus it might be difficult to market, as, on first inspection, you could be mistaken for thinking it was a ‘proper’ superhero film, i.e. complete with giant budget and epic action set-pieces. Then again, if you look closely at the silly costumes and the fact that one woman is using the skull of her father inside a ‘magic’ bowling ball as a weapon, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a straight comedy. However, again, it may have many funny moments, but you wouldn’t call it a ‘laugh-a-minute’ ride.
‘Mystery Men’ is one of those films that dips in and out of various genres. Personally, I’d call it a ‘satire of the superhero genre.’ Now, I enjoy both DC and Marvel’s current crops so I like to think I’m well up on the various conventions and clichés associated with the genre. Therefore, when I watch ‘Mystery Men’ I can appreciate how much work has gone into lampooning it. However, when it was released the genre it was parodying wasn’t established enough to really sell this movie. If you’re looking for something that takes a satirical, yet loving, swipe at all things superhero-related, then you should definitely check this out. Don’t expect total action. Don’t expect outright comedy. Expect a subtle blend of the two. If you’ve ever read the cult comic ‘Astro City’ you’ll know the tone of this film.