Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

"We're not your classic heroes. We're the other guys."

This movie's really summed-up by the guy in the poster above who's holding all the forks.

Really – just look at those forks. Now look at that thoughtful expression on his face. You just know that this is going to be a film full of deadpan humour, a sense of fun, and a lot of cutlery getting thrown around in the name of justice.

(I'm a big fan of cutlery in action movies)

Mystery Men, based on the Dark Horse comic that I've never read, is brilliant start to finish. Noone in this film is a traditional Hollywood stereotype. Some of them, like Greg Kinnear's Captain Amazing, have clearly been conceived to parody such stock characters, but even Geoffrey Rush's evil Frankenstein Cassanova, avoids becoming a stereotypical parody. Or he avoided it when this film first came out in 1999 anyway - since then the post-modern superhero-parody genre has become a bit more commonplace.

After all, it's easy to write a superhero spoof. However this is a film that doesn't do anything the easy way. As a result we get treated to a collection of truly original underdog heroes, underdog because most of their powers are, ingeniously, no use at all.

For example, The Invisible Boy can only be invisible when no-one's looking at him. The Sphinx's 'power' is that he's "terribly mysterious." The Shoveler fights with a shovel. That's it.

The really appealing thing here, then, is that with a little imagination and blagging, any one of us could join this group and get by.

And these characters have certainly all got imaginations.

Night. Mr. Furious, the Blue Raja, and the Shoveller are sneaking across the lawn in front of the villain's lair.

Mr. Furious:
Shh! Wait! Hear that? We must have hit a trip-wire. It could be a proton eviscerator heating up.
The Shoveller: It could be a cybernetic atom scrambler. They target moving objects.
The Blue Raja: It sounds more like a heat-seeking anthrax projection gun to me. Quickly, cover your mouths.
Mr. Furious: No, let's bolt! Come on!
The Shoveller: No! Don't move.
The Blue Raja: Don't breathe!
Mr. Furious:Let's bolt!
The Shoveller: Don't move!
The Blue Raja:Don't breathe!
Mr. Furious: Let's bolt!
The Shoveller: Don't move!
The lawn's sprinkler system turns on and the three are soaked.
The Shoveller:
Oh, it's the sprinkler.

Not only that, but they argue, have no leader, argue, have no plan, argue, and they argue. Oh, and did I mention how much they argue?

The Shoveler: Oh yeah, well, maybe if we had a billionaire like Lance Hunt as our benefactor, then we could afford some advertising.
Mr. Furious: That's because Lance Hunt is Captain Amazing.
The Blue Raja: Oh, here we go.
The Shoveler: Oh, don't start that again! Lance Hunt wears glasses. Captain Amazing doesn't wear glasses.
Mr. Furious: [LONG-SUFFERING] He takes them off when he transforms!
The Shoveler: That doesn't make any sense. He wouldn't be able to see!

And they're believably incompetent too. The scene in which they all try to rescue Captain Amazing is brilliant in its stupidity. And with such a colossal number of quality one-liners, y'know, this might just be the most quotable film I've ever seen...

- "We are number one. All others are number two, or lower."

- "I don't need a compass to know which way the wind shines."

- "Death Man is dead."

The plot-holes are minor, and the late-90s CGI makes the whole thing look a bit reminiscent of Bedknobs And Broomsticks, but within this otherwise well thought-out world, none of those minor things matter much by comparison. The only element that lets the side down for me is the Spleen, whose super-power is his flatulence, but even he's quite likable as a character. By today's standards (as opposed to my old-fashioned ones) this is good respectful family entertainment.

I wish there was more.

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