It’s hard to say what to make of this movie. When it’s on…it’s on. Like when the cast of superheroes bickers over the pronunciation of a word, or when you catch little bits of funny throwaway dialogue, or when you realize that yes, that really is Tom Waits playing the mad scientist and Eddie Izzard playing the disco-loving evil henchman. There’s greatness in this movie.
And yet, it should be higher. The whole comes up a little less that the sum of the parts.
If you haven’t seen it, Mystery Men (based on a comic book which I have never read) is the tale of a group of cut-rate second-class superheroes in a semi-futuristic city. When the real superhero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), is captured by the supervillain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), the schlubs have to rise to the occasion and save the day.
It’s hard not to love the underdogs. They start out as a trio: William H. Macy as the Shoveler, Hank Azaria as the Blue Raja, whose talent, naturally, is throwing spoons and forks (not knives!) with some accuracy, and Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious, whose superpower is that he gets really, really mad. But all is not sunshine in the crime-fighting business:
(Sorry; that clip cuts out right before the Blue Raja complains, “When you split the bill three ways, the steak eater picks the pocket of the salad man!”, my most quotable quote from the film, but what are you gonna do.)
When Captain Amazing goes missing, the team has to expand, so they recruit, coming up with a lot of duds and a few gems, including Janeane Garofalo, who delivers one of my favorite scenes:
If I have any complaints (and clearly I do, because we’re only on #98), the movie feels about 20 minutes too long. The Paul Reubens character is pretty gross and unnecessary, and the whole romance between Mr. Furious and the diner waitress (Claire Forlani, as seen above) seems a little tacked on and meant only to flesh out Stiller’s character in a much less funny way than they do for Azaria and Macy. The scene where the Blue Raja finally comes out of the superhero closet to his mother is particularly good.
Little touches like that one add up, so I’ll still always love this, but like I said…yeah, they add up to less than a great movie. But I don’t really mind.
BONUS: Deleted Tom Waits scene!
Hint as to what #97 might be: It’s a new addition to the list, but an old movie. I mentioned it on Facebook a few weeks ago.