On a recent game night over at Dman’s where pretty much everybody cancelled but me, we figured out that we were in the mood for a movie and we saw Mystery Men on the shelf and we wondered if it held up.
If you’ve never heard of it (and who can blame you), this is a movie that came out in 1999 that was a sendup of the whole “Superhero” thing. Set in a universe where superheroes are common, this film looks at some of the much lower-level heroes. Not the ones who manage to get corporate sponsorship, mind. But the ones who… well, the heroes have names like “The Shoveler” (played by a pitch perfect William H Macy) or “The Bowler” (played by Janeane Garofalo) and powers that equally impressive. (There’s a scene where Shoveler gets into an argument (yet another) with his wife over his superhero hobby and he explains to her “I have a gift! I shovel well. I shovel VERY well.”)
This group of less impressive heroes finds themselves going up against the mastermind criminal “Casanova Frankenstein” (played by Geoffrey Rush) and his various henchmen and hangers on (“Disco Tony” played by Eddie Izzard, “The Not So Goodie Mob”, played by the Goodie Mob, The Fratboys, and so on and so forth).
As I said, this movie came out in 1999. You may remember that, by this point, the first Spider-man movie came out in 2002 and the first X-Men movie came out in 2000.
In 1999, only *ONE* superhero movie came out. It was Mystery Men. Prior to this, we were still standing in the shadow of stuff like the execrable “Batman and Robin” or (the surprisingly good!) “Blade”.
But Superheroes weren’t really a thing. We were still calling them “Comic Book Movies” because we were more likely to be talking about stuff like The Crow or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Phantom. Indeed, this story is based on a comic book and it’s in that context that we lined up to watch it. Not because it was a Superhero movie… because Superhero movies were *RARE* at this point.
And so, it’s with that in mind that I sat down to watch this movie.
HOLY COW THIS MOVIE IS DECADES AHEAD OF ITS TIME. Seriously, it’s funnier today than it was then. From the argument where the heroes are discussing the secret identity of Captain Amazing and whether it is Billionaire Lance Hunt to the superpowers of “The Spleen” (played by Paul Rubens) to the Oscar-Winning actor hamming it up as a bad guy (and, seriously, Casanova Frankenstein is an even better bad guy than Heath Ledger’s Joker)… this movie has it all.
The first fight between the Mystery Men and Casanova Frankenstein is laugh out loud funny (I’m giggling even now, remembering it) and the sets and characters are just freakin’ perfect.
And they’re not even aware of the coming superhero apocalypse.
If you’re sick and tired of superhero movies (who isn’t?), you owe it to yourself to get this one. Make your kids watch it.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?
(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)