Mystery Men

Year: 1999

Synopsis: Lesser superheroes must surpass themselves when an aging Captain Amazing, to improve his PR, springs an old foe onto the city.

Pros:
• The cast apparently arguing with each other in real life ironically enhanced the realism and comedy.
• An interesting study in what might just happen to a superhero so successful he practically destroys himself to create new glories.
• Perhaps did a better job than Watchmen, graphic novel or film, in making unknown heroes likable. They were the other guys.
• An overall effective parody of the sometimes full of itself superhero film genre up to that point.
• In its poking fun of the superhero DNA, gleefully laid the kind of self-awarness that helped to set up for the successful twenty-first century team-ups. Indeed, the film Watchmen might not have been possible without Mystery Men.
• The extended climax provided just about everything one might want out of a comedic comic book film: action, camp, surrealism, psychopathy, well-timed fart jokes …

Cons:
• The jokes would certainly hit far less often for those unfamiliar with the genre it parodied, while there were dramatic derivations from the source material, possibly weakening the story.
• Was ironically a bit full of itself at times, even though it was aiming to make fun of that element in its more serious counterparts.
• Wanted too badly to gain a cult following, while its fans may never see more of this.
• There were a lot of fart jokes …

Discussion:
At first, this wasn’t a team — it was a thyme bomb. Mystery Men was not difficult to overlook. It was long. It had no recognizable superheroes. It had some remarkably stupid jokes. It practically attacted the very genre it parodied. But in the end, it was perhaps one of the best superhero films of the 1990s. Such films had grown so full of themselves, and not only forgot the genuine darkness Tim Burton successfully wielded, but also forgot the kind of fun Batman had in the 1960s. Comic book stories can be all those things. It was never just bright neon sets and recognizable heroes. Mystery Men secretly wanted to save its own genre from its own self-righteousness, by showing the folly of self-righteousness. If you do not master your own sanctimoniousness, then your own sanctimoniousness will master you.


Rotten Tomatoes — 60%

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