Oh, this is such a disap- pointment. As hip as this dud thinks it is, it’s not fooling me. It’s supposed to be a spoof, but it ends up being just a big fat mainstream bomb. Not that it’s really really bad or anything: it’s just a huge waste of money and talent. Like “Batman & Robin” or “The Avengers”, this is a movie with tons of special effects, an all-star cast and amazing production design, but it has no wit and it seriously lacks direction. That might be because it was “directed” by Kinka Usher, whose only experience is commercials like the Taco Bell Chihuahua spots. And that’s what the movie is like: it looks sharp and it’s sometimes amusing, except that what’s OK for 30 seconds gets mortally dull when it goes on for 2 fricking hours! The premise is interesting, though hardly original. We’ve seen wannabe super-heroes in Ben Endlund’s highly enjoyable comic books and cartoons “The Tick” and in fairly entertaing little films like “Meteor Man” (with Robert Towshend) and “Blank Man” (with Damon Wayans), and most effectively in the old “Batman” series, a marvel of cheeky humor in tights and masks. Still, I was kinda looking forward to this 70 million damn dollars take on the idea.
So you’ve got Champion City, a futuristico-gothic megapole (obviously inspired by Tim Burton’s Gotham City) where super-heroes are commonplace. But only one of them has any skill, and it’s Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear, one of the only actors not awful in this), an arrogant prick who fights crime mostly to get publicity endorsement. But one night, his long-time nemesis Casanova Frankenstein (a very lame and unmemorable super-villain, played embarrassingly by Geoffrey Rush) captures him so he can terrorize the city without riposte. It’s up to a bunch of loser super-heroes to try and save the day. These characters are played by usually good actors and have potentially funny powers, but most of them are one-joke (or less) sacks of hot air. There’s Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious, a guy who gets all worked up and pissed and then… nothing happens! William H. Macy is the blue-collar Shoveller, who fights thugs with a shovel; he’s underwritten like every character, but Macy makes him somehow likable. On the other hand, Hank Azaria is just annoying as the effete, pseudo-British, fork-throwing Blue Raja, and that Invisible dude (Kel Mitchell, whoever that is) barely does anything. I liked Paul “Pee-Wee” Reubens’ turn as the Spleen, though: Reubens is an enjoyable performer, though he deserves more than playing a guy whose power is flatulence. There’s also the Bowler (comedian Janeane Garofalo, who looks -and should be- ashamed to be in this crap), the terribly mysterious Sphinx (Wes Studi) and a mad scientist (cult rocker Tom Waits, he must need the money) who creates weird, un-lethal weapons in his lair beneath an abandoned amusement park. Is it over yet?
I’m not saying that “Mystery Men” is the worst movie ever made. It’s just that it’s all over the place, with no idea what to do or where to go. Like, you’ve got these goofball characters, but they’re not developed or anything. The filmmakers figured it would be funny enough just to see dumbasses trying to make justice prevail. It’s not. At all. Like, a fart ain’t funny unless it’s in context. Austin Powers trying to be sexy with a sultry Italian secretary and farting in the bathtub is funny; the Spleen farting in a diner and making people faint is not. Or when the Sphinx blabbers semi-profundities, it’s kinda funny once, but not after a dozen times. This is the movie’s problem: the timing is way off, so it makes the already tired and barely funny comedy even lamer. I did smile at some of the touches, like Pras and Eddie Lizard as the evil Disco Boys, but I didn’t even laugh out loud once. I was mostly bored by the messy storytelling, the tacked on love story (between Stiller and Claire Forlani) and sub-“Power Rangers” fights. I wish I had gone to see “Wild Wild West” again, which seems like “Citizen Kane” next to this waste of celluloid.