Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 12/17/99
1999 (1999) - Universal
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B+
Specs and Features
122 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 31:30, at the start
of chapter 5), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with
director Kinka Usher, Spotlight on
Location featurette, 3 theatrical trailers (Mystery
Men plus preview trailers for Man
on the Moon and Snow Falling
on Cedars), 11 deleted scenes, origins of the Mystery
Men comic book characters, Who
Are Those Mystery Men music video by KEL and the M.A.F.T.
EMCEES (featuring Romaine Jones), production notes, cast & crew
bios, DVD-ROM feature (link to Universal Home Video web site), song
access (12 songs), film-themed menus, scene access (18 chapters),
languages: English (DD 5.1) & French (DD 3.0), subtitles:
English, Close Captioned
"We're not your
we're the other guys."
You've gotta love Mystery Men.
It's tough not to dig a movie about a team of loser superheroes, who
toil away day in and day out to save their fair city from evil, yet
remain in total obscurity in the shadow of the local celebrity
superhero, Captain Amazing. But unlike those who would follow in his
footsteps, Captain Amazing (played by Greg Kinnear - I'm not
kidding) is getting bored defending the citizens of Champion City.
he's beaten all of the good bad guys. There's no more
action left, and now he's in danger of losing all of his product
endorsement deals (he advertises stuff on his uniform). So on the
advice of his publicist, he arranges the release of his greatest
nemesis, Casanova Frankenstein (played by none other than Geoffrey
Rush). But his plan gets away from him, and he's captured by
Casanova. When our working-class heroes become aware of this, they
decide that it's up to them to save Amazing. Unfortunately, their
plan also goes horribly awry, and soon they find themselves all that
stands between Casanova and his nefarious goals.
So who are these Average Joe Defenders of Justice? We'll let me
give you a rundown of these would-be heroes, and their "super"
powers. There's Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), who's power comes from
his boundless rage. The Shoveler (William H. Macy) has a gift
he shovels well. The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) is the master of
cutlery. The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) throws a mean bowling ball
(one with her late father's skull inside). The Spleen (Paul
Reubens)... well, let's say if you pull his finger, you'll get a
whiff of his wrath. The Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell) can become
when no one is looking. And the Sphinx (Wes Studi)
is the spiritual leader of the team, and the master of obscure
wisdom. If you aren't interested in seeing Mystery
Men by now, I don't know what would grab you.
This film is just packed with funny moments. When Mr. Furious tries
to stave off his rage by frantically squeezing a stress ball, I was
in stitches. The Shoveler defends Amazing's secret identity (a spoof
on the Superman/Klark Kent lore) by saying, "Lance Hunt wears
Captain Amazing doesn't wear glasses!" The
superhero audition scene is a classic. I crack up every time I see
the Blue Raja jump out and fork Casanova's car in the team's first
battle with the super-villain. And yes
that is Armageddon
director Michael Bay in a very brief cameo ("Dude
bring the brewskis?").
All that is not to say that Mystery Men
is perfect. For one thing, it's rather slow moving and overly long.
And while I know that this film is a spoof of the superhero genre,
the Amazing/Casanova dynamic doesn't quite work here. I think it
would have been much more effective if the two had been a more
realistic superhero/villain pair, rather than a caricature of one.
That way, when it became up to our unlikely heroes to save the day,
there would have been a more heightened sense of jeopardy. Still,
with this cast and these characters, you've got to give Mystery
Men an "A" for effort at least. I mean, just
getting to watch Bill Macy twirling a shovel around is worth a few
The DVD itself is pretty nice. The film is presented in anamorphic
widescreen, and it looks generally very good. The color is rich and
accurate, and there's excellent contrast and black level detail. It
isn't quite reference quality however. This is a dark film, with
noticeable grain exhibited in the print, so detail is occasionally a
little lacking. To compensate, there's a hair too much edge
enhancement as well. But the video still looks darned good, these
minor issues aside. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also solid,
creating a full-sounding soundstage. Dialogue is placed in the
center channel almost exclusively, but it still sounds fairly
natural. There are lots of fun directional effects (this is a
superhero movie after all), and the bass is excellent. Audio is also
provided in French 3.0 Dolby Surround.
This DVD also has a fairly decent bunch of extras. I'm actually
surprised it doesn't say "Collector's Edition" on the
front, because this disc has more bonus material than some of
Universal's premium titles. There's an interesting, if a little
boring, commentary track with director Kinka Usher (who has directed
a ton of funny television commercials). Stick with it though,
because there's some interesting tidbits of information conveyed.
There's a great bunch of deleted scenes, including a very funny one
were The Shoveler's kids make fun of him when he gets home from a
hard day's superhero work ("Stronger than deodorant
unable to leap over anything
"). There's a 17-minute Spotlight
on Location featurette on the making of the film, and a
music video for Who Are Those Mystery Men
by Kel Mitchell (who also plays The Invisible Boy in the film).
There's also the usual cast & crew information and production
notes, as well as a good text essay on the origins of these
characters (who made their first appearance in the Flaming
Carrot comic book). You also get the film's theatrical
trailer and preview trailers for Universal's Man
on the Moon and Snow Falling
on Cedars. Finally, there's a DVD-ROM link to the
Universal Home Video web site.
Mystery Men is a funny and
original movie. Sure, it isn't perfect. But it made me laugh more
than a few times, and that's good enough for me to overlook its weak
points. I hope Universal gets around to making a sequel to Mystery
Men, because I think this could become one of the most
interesting film franchises in a long time. The possibilities are
endless, and with such great casting, you're gonna hit pay dirt
sooner of later. In any case, this is a fun DVD that's well worth a
spin. And it's a disc I'm glad to have in my collection.