Mystery Men is a 1999 American superhero comedy film directed by Kinka Usher and written by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden, loosely based on Burden’s Flaming Carrot Comics, and starring Hank Azaria, Claire Forlani, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard, Greg Kinnear, William H. Macy, Kel Mitchell, Lena Olin, Paul Reubens, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Stiller, Wes Studi, and Tom Waits. The film details the story of a trio of lesser superheroes with unimpressive powers who are required to save the day.
Despite its list of stars, Mystery Men made a little over $33 million worldwide against a $68 million budget.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Music
- 4 Release
- 4.1 Box office
- 4.2 Critical response
- 5 References
- 6 External links
In Champion City, would-be superhero team of Mr. Furious, the Shoveler, and the Blue Raja attempt to make a name for themselves, but their suspect skills make them ineffective, and they find themselves upstaged by the city’s most successful superhero, Captain Amazing. However, Amazing is finding that his effectiveness at fighting crime has practically made his job obsolete, and without any worthy adversaries remaining (most are either dead, in exile, or in jail), his corporate sponsors are beginning to pull their funding.
To create a need for himself, Amazing uses his alter ego, billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, to argue for the release of supervillain Casanova Frankenstein. The plan backfires; once reunited with Tony P and his Disco Boys, Casanova Frankenstein blows up the insane asylum, captures Amazing, and prepares to unleash the “Psycho-frakulator”, which lethally bends reality. Mr. Furious, while spying on Casanova Frankenstein’s mansion, discovers Amazing’s capture and informs the others.
After an unsuccessful rescue attempt, the three realize that they need more allies, and through word-of-mouth and try-outs, they recruit Invisible Boy, the Spleen, and the Bowler. The newly formed team “assaults” Casanova, which only succeeds in annoying him and damaging his car. While drunk from celebrating their victory, the team is nearly killed in retaliation by Tony P and the Disco Boys, but they are saved at the last minute by the Sphinx. The Sphinx trains them, but his methods annoy Mr. Furious – he has them complete rote team-building exercises and speaks exclusively in Chiasmus. They also seek out Doc Heller, who specializes in non-lethal weaponry, to equip them for their battle.
The group breaks into Casanova’s mansion during a gathering of several of the city’s gangs; but, while attempting to free Captain Amazing, they inadvertently set off the Psycho-frakulator, killing him instead. Without Amazing, the team despairs of saving the city, but the Shoveler delivers a pep-talk that succeeds in uniting and inspiring them.
With new-found purpose, they assault the mansion and, by making effective use of their negligible superpowers and Heller’s weapons, manage to subdue most of Casanova Frankenstein’s henchmen. As the heroes approach Casanova Frankenstein, he reveals that he is holding Mr. Furious’ girlfriend Monica hostage, and activates the Psycho-frakulator, which begins to wreak havoc upon the city.
While the team tries to stop the device, Mr. Furious takes on Casanova Frankenstein. After initially taking a beating, Mr. Furious unleashes his inner rage and manages to fight effectively for the first time. He defeats Casanova Frankenstein, who is thrown into the core of the Psycho-frakulator and killed by its reality-bending powers. The rest of the team helps The Bowler use her bowling ball to destroy the device and escape the mansion as it implodes.
The team is interviewed by reporters, begging to know their team name. As they argue among themselves, one reporter states “Well, whatever you may call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these ‘Mystery Men’,” but the others are too busy arguing to hear it.
- Ben Stiller as Roy / Mr. Furious
- William H. Macy as Eddy / The Shoveler
- Hank Azaria as Jeff / The Blue Raja
- Janeane Garofalo as Carol / The Bowler
- Paul Reubens as The Spleen
- Kel Mitchell as Invisible Boy
- Wes Studi as The Sphinx
- Geoffrey Rush as Casanova Frankenstein
- Eddie Izzard as Tony P.
- Prakazrel Michel as Tony C.
- Lena Olin as Dr. Anabel Leek
- Greg Kinnear as Lance Hunt / Captain Amazing
- Claire Forlani as Monica
- Tom Waits as Dr. A. Heller
The musical score for Mystery Men was composed by Stephen Warbeck. Written within a 28-day time span, the score was recorded on the Sony Scoring Stage. “I was quite liberal in the choice of instruments, because I’ve chosen a couple of Hungarian instruments, the tárogató and the cimbalom, and also a Greek instrument, the bouzouki,” said Warbeck on the film’s range of sounds. “And then Mike Fisher and the other percussionists have brought along an exciting range of stuff which are so interesting and varied that we keep picking bits of those and adding them in.” After Warbeck’s contributions were completed, the film’s producers decided to alter various scenes. Because of this, composer Shirley Walker was brought in to create additional music and rearrange Warbeck’s score to fit the new running time.
A soundtrack album was released on July 6, 1999 by Interscope Records.
Additional songs featured in the film include:
- “Planet Claire” – The B-52s
- “O Mio Babbino Caro” (Composed by Giacomo Puccini) – Miriam Gauci
- “Play That Funky Music” – Wild Cherry
- “A Fifth of Beethoven” – Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band
In its opening weekend, Mystery Men grossed $10,017,865, ranking number six at the domestic box office. By the end of its run, on October 14, the film had grossed $29,762,011 domestically and $3,699,000 overseas, for a worldwide total of $33,461,011. Given its $68 million budget, the film is a box office bomb.
The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 60% (with a 5.7 out-of 10 average rating) based on 103 reviews; the consensus states: “Absurd characters and quirky gags are brought to life by a talented cast, providing this superhero spoof with lots of laughs.” On Metacritic, the film has a 65/100 rating based on 24 critics, signifying “generally favorable reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “C+” on an A+ to F scale.
Jonathan Romney said that it was “a desperately hit-and-miss affair”. Michael Dequina of The Movie Report said that it “fails to come up with worthy gags and one-liners for the able cast.” Steve Murray of Cox News Service gave it a negative review, saying “Mystery Men is like its hapless heroes. It’s a wannabe that has the best intentions – including a pronounced anti-gun stance – but none of the knack it takes to save the day, or itself.”
British television channel Film4 gave it a positive review, saying it was “Hugely entertaining – especially for those with a thing for superheroes.”
- Mystery Men on IMDb
- Mystery Men at Box Office Mojo
- Mystery Men at Rotten Tomatoes
- Mystery Men at Metacritic