Most of us grew up reading comics about super heroes. Most of in their youth may have even dreamed of being a superhero if only we had some sought of powers. Mystery Men is basically about a rag-tagged team of misfits with at best, marginal powers. They live in Champion City where the main superhero is Captain Amazing(Greg Kinnear). The Captain has numerous endorsements from a large variety of corporate sponsors. His uniform is bedecked with logo after logo. He has a bit of a problem. He has been so good at getting rid of crime that there are no super villains left and he has begun to lose his precious sponsors. In his desperation he get his former nemesis, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) released from the mental institution to fight him for additional ratings. His plot backfires when Frankenstein captures Amazing. Determined to save the Captain and gain recognition the Mystery Men go after Frankensteins gang, the Disco Gang. They are badly beaten and realize they need more members and are joined by a couple of other misfits. Among this sorry group are Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), his only power is his anger, The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) , he throws forks and spoons, and the Shoveler (William H. Macy) who hits people with a shovel The added members are The Spleen (Paul Reubens) with his silent but deadly flatulence, The Invisible Boy , who can only become invisible when no one is looking and The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) who hits people with a bowling ball contain the skull of her late father. What ensues should be a romp through many funny moments although the film does lack the timing so necessary to a great comic film.
What was well done in this film is the casting. Few comedies have been able to assemble a cast of such notable comics. Each one is well know for their work and are able to play off each other very well. Still and Garofalo have a long history together and it shows. The seem to be able to time their bits perfectly. As always, the deadpan face of Bill Macy is a delight. Paul Reubens, best known as Pee-Wee Herman delivers his part with a flair and Hank Azaria (The Simpsons , Mad About You) stays in character no matter how bad things get.
What holds this film back is the writing and direction. The film would have been a hundred times better if left to the comic geniuses that are in it. If they threw out the script and let these people have a fee hand in improvisation the film would have been incredible. As it is, the writing is at times boring and predicable. It lacks the spark needed for enduring comedy. The direction by Kinka Usher is mundane and shows little imagination. This was his first and hopefully last film until he can graduate from a film school to learn what he is doing.
What does shine (no pun intended for Mr. Rush) is the disc. Universal always does a very good job with its DVD releases and this is no exception. I found one major problem, the commentary track cannot be selected while the movie is playing, and you have to go to the menu and work your way to the bonus material screen to switch it on and off. Perhaps this is to save the viewers from the explanations of the director. The disc is also a DVDROM and there is a lot of fun there. A text only explanation of the Mystery Men comics is provided. The sound is wonderful. The soundtrack is also on the bonus material area of the disc. The video is anamorphic and crisp. This missed in the theaters and is barely good for a laugh or two here.