Mystery Men

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Mystery Men
Mystery Men film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kinka Usher
Produced by
Written by
Based on Flaming Carrot Comics 
by Bob Burden
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, and starring (in alphabetical order) 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, and Tom Waits. The film details the story of 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]

It is a widespread urban legend that Director Kinka Usher did not actually direct the film and it instead was directed by Tim Burton. However no new evidence has come forth whether Burton did in fact direct the film. The myth came from Tom Waits's autobiography where he mention that when he starred in this film Burton was the director using an alias.


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 (some of them are either dead, in exile, or still in jail), 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, Casanova 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 Casanova 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 of saving 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 Casanova Frankenstein's henchmen. Unfortunately, as the heroes approach Casanova Frankenstein, he reveals that he is holding Mr. Furious' girlfriend Monica 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 Casanova Frankenstein. After initially taking a beating, Mr. Furious unleashes his inner rage and manages to fight effectively for the first time. He defeats Casanova 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 among 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.


  • Hank Azaria as The Blue Raja/Jeff, a superhero that throws cutlery with great accuracy.
  • Claire Forlani as Monica, a waitress that becomes Mr. Furious' girlfriend.
  • Janeane Garofalo as The Bowler/Carol, a superheroine with good bowling skills that wields a crystal bowling ball that contains the skull of her dead father Carmine the Bowler (who had died fighting the Disco Boys).
  • Eddie Izzard as Tony P., the leader of the Disco Boys.
  • Greg Kinnear as Captain Amazing/Lance Hunt, Champion City's local superhero.
  • William H. Macy as The Shoveler/Eddy, a sewer worker-turned-superhero that wields a shovel.
  • Kel Mitchell as Invisible Boy, a superhero who can only become invisible if nobody is looking.
  • Lena Olin as Dr. Anabel Leek
  • Paul Reubens as The Spleen, a superhero who can deploy flatulence at will, sufficient to induce fainting.
  • Geoffrey Rush as Casanova Frankenstein, a criminal genius with an assortment of weapons.
  • Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious/Roy, a superhero that often gets enraged.
  • Wes Studi as The Sphinx, a mysterious superhero who can use his mind to cut guns in half.
  • Tom Waits as Dr. A. Heller, a mad scientist who aids the Mystery Men by making non-lethal weapons for them to use.
  • Prakazrel Michel as Tony C.
  • Artie Lange as Big Red
  • Ricky Jay as Victor Weems, Captain Amazing's publicist.
  • Jenifer Lewis as Lucille
  • Dane Cook as The Waffler, a waffle iron-wielding character who auditions to join up with the Mystery Men.
  • Doug Jones as Pencil Head, a pencil-themed character who auditions to join up with the Mystery Men.
  • Vincent Bowman as Son of Pencilhead, a pencil-themed character who auditions to join up with the Mystery Men.
  • Dana Gould as Squeegee Man, a squeegee-wielding character who auditions to join up with the Mystery Men.
  • Michael Bay, Noah Blake, and Riki Rachtman as Frat boys
  • Goodie Mob including Cee Lo Green as the "Not-So-Goodie Mob"
  • Monet Mazur as Becky Beaner
  • Louise Lasser as The Blue Raja's mother
  • Kinka Usher as Moe
  • Mark Mothersbaugh as Bandleader
  • Jack Plotnick as Mr. Pups
  • Gerry Becker as Banyon
  • Ned Bellamy as Funk
  • Corbin Bleu as Butch
  • Philip Bolden as Roland



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 August 18, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Archive Volume 53". The Movie Report. Retrieved August 18, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Mystery Men". Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Access Atlanta. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  9. ^ "Mystery Men - Film4". Retrieved 2012-12-03. 

External links[edit]