Susan Granger’s review of “MYSTERY MEN” (Universal Pictures)
This feeble spoof tells the saga of seven aspiring superheroes, each possessing a unique – and bizarre – superpower, who band together to save Champion City. The ragtag group consists of Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious, a leather-clad neurotic with a foul temper (“I’m a ticking time bomb of fury!”); Janeane Garofalo as the bitchy Bowler, whose weapon is a clear bowling ball with her father’s visible skull inside; Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman) as the Spleen, who farts noxious gas; Hank Azaria as the effete Blue Raja whose specialty is throwing silverware (“May the forks be with you!”); Kel Mitchell as Invisible Boy, who can’t disappear when people are watching; Wes Studi as the Sphinx, who spews sage-like homilies; and William H. Macy as the Shoveler, whose superweapon is, you guessed it, a spade. The villain is the psychotic Cassanova Frankenstein, played by Geoffrey Rush, who has invented the deadly “Frakulator” beam which fragments and warps everything – from people to buildings – into a weird state that reflects what’s going on within Cassanova’s maniacal head – like Picasso’s cubist renderings. His conspirator is Greg Kinnear, a.k.a. Captain Amazing, Champion City’s bona fide arrogant superhero, who is afraid he’ll lose his product endorsements if there isn’t a villain on the loose. The preposterous derring-do in Neil Cuthbert’s deliberately formulaic screenplay, based on the Dark Horse comic book series created by Bob Burden, must have looked better on paper. Utilizing every camera trick, director Kinka Usher exaggerates the obvious, which is not surprising since his background is in television commercials. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Mystery Men” is a muddled 3. It’s a superhero sendup that snickers and deflates quickly.