Mystery Men (1999)

Rating: C-

Dir: Kinka Usher
Star: Ben Stiller, Geoffrey Rush, Janeane Garofolo

It’s hard to be sure if this is intended as ironic; it does exhibit the common tendency of American satirical movies to wimp out, becoming what it parodies. Thus, it gives nothing much away to say that our team of crap superheroes end up saving the city; a shame, as there are moments which suggest the writers had a chance to really rip into the whole mythos of caped crusaders. The central threesome – Stiller, Hank Azaria and William H.Macy – are fine (Macy in particular does a fine job of portraying a world-weary second-string superhero, struggling to keep his family life going alongside the crimefighting).

But the film is diluted severely when our not-so-heroic trio become a six-pack to take on supervillain Rush, with only Garofolo’s bowling girl exhibiting enough personality to stand on her own. [Paul Reuben’s Spleen is a truly repulsive character, whose voice, look and mannerisms are merely unpleasant] Eddie Izzard adds a nice turn as one of the Disco Boys, Rush’s henchmen, but there’s not enough here to justify something over two hours long – even without the deleted scenes on the DVD. The Flaming Carrot comic from which this drew its characters is something of a cult classic; as so often happens, its appeal seems to have largely been lost in the transition.