(US); 1999; Rated PG-13; 121 Minutes
Hank Azaria: Blue Raja/Jeffrey
Janeane Garofalo: The Bowler/Caroline
William H. Macy: The Shoveler/Eddie
Kel Mitchell: Invisible Boy
Paul Reubens: The Spleen
Ben Stiller: Mr. Furious/Roy
Wes Studi: The Sphinx
Greg Kinnear: Captain Amazing/Lance Hutton
Produced by Robert
Engelman, Steven Gilder, Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin and
Mike Richardson; Directed by Kinka Usher; Screenwritten
by Neil Cuthbert; based on the comic book by Bob Burden
by DAVID KEYES
it is, at last, something sharp and imaginative to save
us from all those predictable summer blockbusters. Let's
be honest with ourselves: this is, without second thought,
a season crammed with frequent retreads of first offerings;
in other words, a period in which a movie's budget is more
important than any type of well-crafted script, and ideas
are borrowed from other big hits in hopes of squeezing some
new life into them. It is with great surprise that this,
a movie of combined genres and fresh (often funny) perspective,
is able to maneuver all of those box office rip-offs, and
find release in theaters at the vertex of the season's derangement.
The film is a dazzling, charming, witty, well-accepted and
original experience. And because it opens in August, instead
of September and October like other super hero films, that
makes it all the more well-accepted and original. Here,
we are not watching a habitual, tiresome summer flick in
which teens have sex, terrorists live next door, or boys
can see ghosts all around him. We are watching idiots parade
around in ugly costumes, calling themselves 'crime fighters.'
What more could one ask for at a time when movie-goers are
being showered with expensive and pointless blockbusters?
Kinnear stars as Captain Amazing, an equivalent to Superman
of sorts, whose tremendous popularity in the lush environment
of Champion City is waning. Why? Because all the crime is
gone. He has conquered every baddie that has ever laid their
feet in the city. In order to prevent his image from fading
in the minds of countless followers, the Captain decides
his best way to redeem attention is by cooking up a plot
with his arch-nemesis, the diabolical Casanova Frankenstein,
played by Geoffrey Rush. One problem: the nemesis is a little
too smart for Captain Amazing. Once he is set free, the
super hero turns up missing.
about those self-proclaimed 'Mystery Men.' Picture several
wanna-be crime fighters, on determination to save Captain
Amazing, who know just as much of the subject as they do
rocket science. This, interestingly, is because they're
only super heroes in training, not quite aware of how to
approach a bombarding crime-spree. No plan of theirs is
well-thought, partly because the job is not that well-suited
to them, but also because their own talents are so far-fetched
that no one could perceive them as tools in crime-fighting.
Their special powers would make Austin Powers' look generic.
just as their talents are peculiar for challenging evildoers,
so are their own personalities. Here are some fascinating
triumphs in the world of comic-book-style crime fighters;
their individualism strays from normality and bounces off
into a realm of insanity. The ensemble cast, brought together
with witty and often flabbergasted precision, is filled
with amazing individuals, among them William H. Macy as
the Shoveler (a man whose spade is his only friend), Kel
Mitchell as the Invisible Boy (who is only invisible when
no one is looking), Janeane Garofalo as The Bowler (whose
personal weapon acts like a boomerang of sorts), and Ben
Stiller as Mr. Furious (whose powers are more like temper
tantrums thrown by pony-hungry 16-year-old girls). The best,
however, is The Spleen, for reasons that I find difficult
to describe here. If we as moviegoers are unfair to actors
who have made mistakes in the past and have returned triumphant,
then Paul Reubens' performance is one to take notice. He's
simple yet funny, dumb yet interesting, nasty but observant.
In this kind of world, he deserves a movie all by himself.
Men" isn't rehashed material, either. Oh, the idea of super
heroes is hardly anything new, but because this one combines
those standard plot devices with satirical force and invigorating
new characters, the story is more fresh than, say, "Blade"
or "Batman" (which may be hard to imagine, since the film
is adapted from a comic book as well). The movie succeeds
in almost every detail, because it satirizes the super hero
genre rather than trying to Xerox it.
characters are funny, unique, and (here's the trump card)
their special skills are not out of this world. Rather,
they involve objects and things that we can recognize at
first glance (but usually ones that we cannot see as those
used in crime fighting). This gives them an advantage over
typical heroes like the Caped Crusader. There is a moment,
for example, when the three original Mystery Men are recruiting
new members to save Captain Amazing, and they come across
one who calls herself the PMS Avenger. "I can only work
two or three days a month," she says. "I hope that isn't
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.