Ever wonder why, in a world of super-heroes named Batman & Robin, Superman, and Aquaman, there was no super-hero named "The Cricket", whose power was he could rub his legs together and make an annoying screeching sound to distract his enemies? I know I haven't, but I figure some of you might have. The answer, oh intrepid fanatics, is that they're all hiding out in Champion City, almost completely hidden beneath the shadow of Captain Amazing.
Welcome to the world of "Mystery Men", a somewhat serious look at farcical "super-heroes" (and I use the word loosely) trying to make a difference with very little in the way of actual "powers". When the darling of the city, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), turns up missing, and an evil super-villain rears its ugly head, it's up to The Shoveler (William H. Macy), Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Blue Rajah (Hank Azaria), Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), The Spleen (Paul Reubens) , The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) and their cryptic mentor The Sphinx (Wes Studi) to save the day, the city, and each other from the destructive plots of Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush).
Simply put, this movie is pure entertainment. First and foremost, the story is engaging in its message, that anyone and everyone can make a difference just being who they are. But beyond the sap that message conjures up, there are other things to note. The cinematography is phenomenal, with its sweeping pans through Champion City, even from the very opening of the film. The close-ups of the individuals are a bit looming at times, but otherwise it works very well with the overall feel of the film. Also notable is the somewhat "honest" humor the film doles out along with the action and confrontation.
Notable character awards must to go Eddie Izzard as the "Disco Gangster" and right-hand henchman to Casanove Frankenstein and Tom Waits as the Mad, but non-lethal, weapons maker that outfits the Mystery Men with some of their most... interesting and creative items (such as "The Blamethrower" amongst others).
Macy is wonderful as a working man's working man hero, complete with a less-than-understanding wife and two supportive kids. Stiller is hilarious as the one hero not really very heroic throughout most of the film. Garofalo is wonderful as the hero haunted by the death of her father and trying desperately to escape his shadow (as well as his parenting). The entire cast works well together, and it's obvious that they enjoyed making it as much as the audience enjoyed watching it.
I give this film a B+. While not an academy award nominee caliber film, it's definitely worth viewing, if for no other reason than to hear Ben Stiller butcher well worn (and loved) cliches.