Mystery Men

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Mystery Men
Mystery Men film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kinka Usher
Produced by Lawrence Gordon
Lloyd Levin
Mike Richardson
Written by Neil Cuthbert
Bob Burden
Based on Flaming Carrot Comics 
by Bob Burden
Starring Hank Azaria
Claire Forlani
Janeane Garofalo
Eddie Izzard
Greg Kinnear
William H. Macy
Kel Mitchell
Lena Olin
Paul Reubens
Geoffrey Rush
Ben Stiller
Wes Studi
Tom Waits
Music by Stephen Warbeck
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Edited by Conrad Buff
Golar Productions
Dark Horse Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • July 30, 1999 (1999-07-30)
Running time 120 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $68 million[2]
Box office $33,461,011[2]

Mystery Men is a 1999 American superhero comedy film directed by Kinka Usher and written by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden, loosely based on Burden's Flaming Carrot Comics published by Dark Horse Comics. William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, and Hank Azaria star as a trio of lesser superheroes with unimpressive powers who are required to save the day.

Despite its list of stars and mixed to positive reviews, Mystery Men made a little over $33 million worldwide against a $68 million budget.[2]


In the metropolis of Champion City, the would-be superhero team of Mr. Furious, The Shoveler, and The Blue Raja attempt to make a name for themselves, but their suspect skills make them ineffective, and they find themselves upstaged by the city's most successful superhero, Captain Amazing. However, Amazing is finding that his effectiveness at fighting crime has practically made his job obsolete, and without any worthy adversaries remaining, his corporate sponsors are beginning to pull their funding. To create a need for himself, Amazing uses his alter ego, billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, to argue for the release of insane supervillain Casanova Frankenstein. The plan backfires; once reunited with Tony P and his Disco Boys, Frankenstein blows up the insane asylum, captures Amazing, and prepares to unleash a doomsday device: the "Psycho-frakulator", which lethally bends reality. Mr. Furious, while spying on Frankenstein's mansion, discovers Amazing's capture and informs the others.

After an unsuccessful rescue attempt, the three realize they need more allies, and through word-of-mouth and try-outs, they recruit The Spleen, Invisible Boy, and The Bowler. The newly formed team "assaults" Casanova, which only succeeds in annoying him and damaging his car. While drunk from celebrating their victory, the team is nearly killed in retaliation by Tony P and the Disco Boys, but they are saved at the last minute by the Sphinx. The Sphinx trains them, but his methods annoy Mr. Furious – he has them complete rote team-building exercises and speaks exclusively in platitudes. They also seek out mad scientist Dr. Heller, who specializes in non-lethal weaponry, to equip them for their battle.

The group breaks into Casanova's mansion during a gathering of several of the city's gangs, but while attempting to free Captain Amazing, they inadvertently set off the Psycho-frakulator, killing him instead. Without Amazing, the team despairs that there is no way they can save the city, but the Shoveler delivers a pep-talk that succeeds in uniting and inspiring them. With new-found purpose, they assault the mansion, and by making effective use of their negligible superpowers and Heller's weapons, manage to subdue most of Frankenstein's henchmen. Unfortunately, as the heroes approach Frankenstein, he reveals that he is holding Mr. Furious' girlfriend hostage, and proceeds to activate the Psycho-frakulator, which begins to wreak havoc upon the city. While the team tries to stop the device, Mr. Furious takes on Frankenstein. After initially taking a beating, Mr. Furious unleashes his inner rage and manages to fight effectively for the first time. He defeats Frankenstein, who is thrown into the core of the Psycho-frakulator and killed by its reality-bending powers. The rest of the team helps the Bowler use her bowling ball to destroy the device, and escape the mansion as it implodes, killing several villains still inside.

The team is interviewed by reporters, begging to know their team name. As they argue amongst themselves, one reporter states "Well, whatever you may call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these 'Mystery Men'," but the others are too busy arguing to hear it.




Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, Mystery Men grossed $10,017,865, ranking number six in the domestic box office.[3] At the end of its run on October 14, the film had grossed $29,762,011 domestically and $3,699,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $33,461,011. Based on a $68 million budget, the film is a box office bomb.[2]

Critical response[edit]

The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 60% based on 101 reviews; the consensus states: "Absurd characters and quirky gags are brought to life by a talented cast, providing this superhero spoof with lots of laughs."[4] On Metacritic, the film has a 65/100 rating based on 24 critics, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[5]

Jonathan Romney said that it was "a desperately hit-and-miss affair".[6] Michael Dequina of The Movie Report said that it "fails to come up with worthy gags and one-liners for the able cast".[7] Steve Murray of Cox News Service gave it a negative review, saying "Mystery Men is like its hapless heroes. It's a wannabe that has the best intentions – including a pronounced anti-gun stance – but none of the knack it takes to save the day, or itself."[8]

British television channel Film4 gave it a positive review, saying it was "Hugely entertaining – especially for those with a thing for superheroes."[9]


  1. ^ "MYSTERY MEN (PG)". United International Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. September 8, 1999. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Mystery Men". Box Office Mojo. October 14, 1999. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  3. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for August 6-8, 1999". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. August 9, 1999. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Mystery Men". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  5. ^ "Mystery Men Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Mystery Men 1999". BFI Sight & Sound. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  7. ^ "Archive Volume 53". The Movie Report. Retrieved 202–08–18. 
  8. ^ "Mystery Men". Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Access Atlanta. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  9. ^ "Mystery Men - Film4". Retrieved 2012-12-03. 

External links[edit]