Many little boys would like to be comic book superheroes. After all, countless boys have been known to grab a small blanket, tie it around their necks like a cape and pretend to be Superman while leaping off the family furniture. The new comedy adventure, MYSTERY MEN, based on a popular comic book series by Bob Burden, plays on this juvenile urge, often to very funny effect. It also makes fun of the New Age proverbs that the mentors of superheroes often spout, such as the ones that Yoda says in the STAR WARS movies or the giant Buddhist rat says in the TEENAGE MUTANT TURTLES saga.
In MYSTERY MEN, Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria and William H. Macy play three wannabe superheroes, Mr. Furious, the Blue Raja and the Shoveler. Their super-talents leave much to be desired. The Blue Raja, for instance, only throws forks, never knives, while the Shoveler often hits Mr. Furious with his shovel instead of the bad guys. Meanwhile, Mr. Furious pretends to be like the Incredible Hulk by going into fits of rage, but his fits of rage only anger the bad guys, who promptly begin beating him to a pulp.
When Champion City’s true superhero, Captain Amazing (played by Greg Kinnear), gets captured by Casanova Frankenstein (Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush from SHINE), Mr. Furious and his friends become the city’s one hope for survival. To help them battle the villain and his cohorts, they find three other wannabe superheroes, the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), the Spleen (Paul Rubens, who played Pee Wee Herman) and the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), who can only be invisible if no one looks at him. Only the Bowler and the Spleen seem to be at all effective, however, until the team hooks up with another superhero, the Sphynx, played by Wes Studi, and a non-lethal weapons expert named Dr. Heller, played by singer and composer Tom Waits. The Sphynx spouts New Age aphorisms like “The wise man is weakest when he thinks himself strong” and “When you doubt your powers, you give power to your doubts.” Mr. Furious pokes fun at these sayings, but the Sphynx inspires the others and instills confidence in them as well as helps them practice with their weapons. Finally, Dr. Heller gives them non-lethal ways to stop the weapons of the bad guys, including the “Blame Thrower,” a gun which makes the bad guys start arguing with each other and blaming one another instead of fighting.
MYSTERY MEN, which clocks in at a full two hours, sometimes gets bogged down with bits of business among the large cast of main characters and between them and the minor characters. Even so, it’s very funny when it’s poking fun at the idea of being a superhero and at the crazy New Age aphorisms and self-help platitudes that viewers sometimes hear in today’s movies. Eventually, however, the heroes in this comedy have a New Age pagan worldview favoring magical thinking and a non-spiritual self-confidence seeking personal glory. This worldview is tinged with an occult belief in having special powers. For instance, the Sphynx displays telekinetic powers at one point, much like the powers of the Jedi Knights in the STAR WARS movies. Also, the Bowler acts as if she can talk with her dead father, whose skull she has had placed in the clear plastic bowling ball she flings around so amazingly. Despite this, the other characters make fun of her communication with her dead father, and the movie doesn’t seem to take any of this stuff that seriously.
Also on the positive side, MYSTERY MEN supports making an effort to get along with other people, making a stand against evil in order to save other people (despite ridicule and overwhelming odds) and being kind to those who don’t fit into society. In addition, the movie encourages people to search for the talents within themselves so that they can find purpose and meaning in life and make a positive contribution to their community. Thus, the movie tempers its pagan worldview with several moral elements.
Finally, although MYSTERY MEN has only nine mild obscenities and one strong one, the super power that Paul Rubens’ Spleen character relies on is flatulence, so the movie contains many mildly gross jokes about this. MOVIEGUIDE® gives the movie an extreme caution not just for this problem, but also for the movie’s problematic worldview and especially for two completely unnecessary shots involving a skunk who performs an obscene sexual move on the Spleen’s leg. This last part is one of the cheap jokes that help bog the movie down and dilute its GHOSTBUSTERS-style comedy and energy.
New Age pagan worldview that advocates magical thinking & seeking glory, with occult overtones, including ESP powers, & some moderately strong moral elements; 10 mostly mild obscenities including 1 "s" word plus flatulence jokes, bedpan joke & reference to testicles; moderate action violence such as hand-to-hand combat & hitting bad guys with objects like shovels, forks & bowling balls, gunfire, explosions, slapstick violence, & man accidentally chars other man to death with laser-like weapon; no human sex but skunk performs depicted sex act on man's leg in two unnecessary shots; upper male nudity when man removes clothes to become invisible; alcohol use & drunkenness; smoking; and, revenge, man releases psychopathic criminal so he can achieve more glory fighting the criminal but is punished for his action, wannabe superhero gets jealous when other man takes over his role as leader, & woman talks to her dead father, whose skull she has had placed in a clear plastic bowling ball.