mystery men (dir. Kinka Usher)

If I knew anything about people, I’d be a millionaire, but I just don’t want to put the effort in to learn why Dumb and Dumber was funny to the rest of the world and Mystery Men wasn’t. I was cracking up throughout the film.

The plot, if you don’t know, concerns several ‘wannabe’ super-heroes who set out to save the city from the evil bad guy, Casanova Frankenstein, once the only real super-hero, Captain Amazing, is captured by him. The Mystery Men seemingly don’t have real super-powers: the Shoveler fights with a shovel, the Blue Raja throws forks at people, and Mr Furious just gets real mad.

These guys get their asses kicked at every turn. And it’s hilarious.

The movie is based on a graphic novel of the same name. In the post-modern style of the moment, it playfully pokes fun at its own genre. The misfit super-heroes make constant references to the clich├ęs of comic books. In addition all the humor is completely dead-panned so even if you’re not driven to laughs, you’re tickled. William Macy, as the Shoveler, plays with a completely straight-face when he says: “Lance Hunt wears glasses, Captain Amazing does not” to describe how he knows Lance/Captain A are not the same person.

The actors all go to amazing lengths to make their characters equally comical. And it’s their interaction that gives the movie its great comedy. The Shoveler’s solemn practicality and Mr. Furious’ shy, embarassed egotist meet in one amusing scene. The direction shows some great comic timing, but the film, at 2 hours, is a bit too long. The real joy is watching the talented ensemble cast (Jeanine Garrafolo, Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Paul Rubens) interpret the absolutely hilarious script.