Mystery Men.
Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Mystery Men

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for comic action violence and crude humor.

Reviewed by: Debbie James
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Action/Comedy
Length:
117 min.
Year of Release:
1999

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Hank Azaria, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Reubens, Janeane Garofalo, Kel Mitchell, Wes Studi, Tom Waits | Director: Kinka Usher | Released by: Universal Pictures

“Mystery Men” is a fun-to-watch movie about a group of misfit superheroes based on the Dark Horse comic book “Flaming Carrot” series. What makes it fun to watch is the clever use of bright colors amidst the elaborate dark cityscape scenes and the camera angles. Elements from other movies such as: “Batman”, “Blade Runner”, “Dick Tracy”, “Superman”, “Star Wars”, and “The Six Million Dollar Man”, are used for comic effect. Disco music is the villains' theme music—their lair resembles a disco, complete with a large spinning mirrored ball, and their attire is pure 70s. Just for the fun of it, the super-villain’s car is a Corvette limousine.

The setting is Champion City. Superhero Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) has just saved the day defending a retirement center from the “Red Eyes” gang. A group of superhero wannabes are also trying to show that they have something special to give to society, but are overshadowed by the town-favorite. Captain Amazing is doing such a good job wiping out crime that he’s about to work himself out of a job. Not wanting to be out of the spotlight, he devises a plan to have the worst super-villain in the city’s history released, so he can keep up his image. Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) is released, but things don’t go as planned. But, don’t worry… it’s misfit superheroes to the rescue… and now it’s their turn to shine!

Scene from Mystery Men.

This ragtag rescue team is comprised of: Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), whose “special ability” is a bad temper when he gets upset, The Shoveler (William H. Macy), who (you guessed it) is good at whacking people with his shovel, and The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria), who possesses the amazing skill of throwing forks and spoons (he has a thing against knives, and by the way, doesn’t ever wear anything blue). Realizing they’re going to need more help to overcome their foe, they audition new recruits. Joining the group are The Spleen (Paul Reubens), who is able to blast people away with his high-powered flatulence; The Bowler (Janeane Garofolo), who hurls a transparent lightning-fast bowling ball containing her father’s skull. (She is often talking with her father through the ball); and Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), who can only become invisible when no one is looking. When they realize that they lack a real leader, they recruit the Sphinx (Wes Studi), who binds the team together with his “wise” sayings.

Needing an arsenal, the group enlists the help of a wacky inventor, Doc Heller (Tom Waits), who makes only non-deadly weapons. There they procure a zany array of instruments which they hope will defeat the arch-enemy. The Shoveler gives an impassioned before-battle speech complete with strains of appropriate music in the background, and they’re off!

Violence is mostly brief and of the comic variety with the exception of a scene where a character is shown being burnt to a crisp by a power beam-type weapon and a building being blown up.

Offensive language was surprisingly low with about a half dozen obscenities uttered during the entire movie. One character also utters a substitute word for the f-word with the phrase: “What the fork” (a play on his “special powers” with silverware.) There were two uses of the phrase: “Oh my God,” and on the flip-side, two characters make brief positive references to God.

As far as the Sex/Nudity category goes, the following instances occur: a group of female characters wear tight-fitting, revealing clothing (one woman’s costume shrinks, and we see a side view of her bare butt), one male character’s pants fall down (we see him in his small brief-style underwear), and another male character’s clothes fall off leaving him standing there nude covering his crotch area with his hands. A female character then exclaims, “Wow!” (in reference to the size of his genitals). A nude female mannequin with realistically detailed breasts is clearly visible in a man’s home, a skunk tries to mate with a male character’s leg, and one character tells another he dresses like a male prostitute. There are several “whack to the genitals” scenes; one where a man mutters the word: “testicles” several times. Various other scenes that are brief, yet still might offend someone include alcohol use, marijuana use spoken about, smoking, and a depiction of walking on hot coals.

Viewer Comments
I thought this was an entertaining movie which I would recommend to Christians. It had a minimum of mildly offensive parts which were far outweighed by good, clean humor of the wacky/stupid variety.
—Jonathan Stephenson, age 28
I’ll agree with the other respondents; I, too, would have put the Christian rating a little lower. But different people seem to come back with different views of the seediness of “Mystery Men” and other movies. The U.S. Catholic Conference’s Office for Film and Broadcasting, for example, gave it their equivalent to a PG, making it less offensive in their eyes than the PG movies “The Spanish Prisoner” or “Runaway Bride,” which received their PG-13 equivalent rating. I thank the critic for giving an itemized report (if perhaps more specific than is needed) of what could offend Christians in the audience; I see that as more useful than the blanket Christian rating. Hopefully, the reviews I’ve written for the site (“Wild Wild West,” “Muppets From Space” and “Runaway Bride” are the latest) are similarly useful.
—Matthew Prins, age 22

in response… I thank the other commenters for pointing out that I may have rated this movie a little too high on the Christian scale. Perhaps I am a bit too generous, but I gave it a rating of “3” because of the description of “3” means “not too offensive” according to this site’s review form. My rating is based on a comparison of other movies available. I never intended to mislead anyone. This movie IS far less offensive than many PG-13 movies available. Compared to other movies of its rating, like Titanic (rated “2” with scenes of nudity, sexuality, much more bad language, and graphic depictions of many people drowning and/or freezing to death) this movie definitely is less offensive. By listing the offensive instances like I do, I hope I am fully preparing the viewer on what to expect if they choose to go. Nothing is worse than going to a movie you hope to enjoy and then being assaulted by the content.
—Debbie James, reviewer

This movie is one that is properly rated at PG-13. The movie is rather corny, but a humorous flick which will be enjoyed by teenagers and some adults alike. They often take the road of not using the obscenity and using another word in its place, making the movie all the more enjoyable. It’s not a serious film at all, but that is what makes it so funny. I wouldn’t recommend the film for little ones, even though they may be interested in it, but if they do go, ½ of the movie will just go over their head.
—Jordan, age 18
I am surprised that this movie recieved such a high “Christian” rating with all of the sexual remarks and references to genitals and with the obscenities and the violence. This movie was one of the dumbest movies I’ve seen in a long time and all of the crude humor made it worse. To give it such a high “Christian” rating to me is misleading. This movie is not one for the kids under OR over 13 that’s for sure and I would be embarrassed to take any of my friends to see such a piece of garbage. It is a perfect example of how low Hollywood has sunk.
—Sharla Kay, age 30