Mystery Men
***.5 GM
Starring: Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Hank Azaria, Tom Waits, Greg Kinnear, William H. Macy, Kel Mitchell, Paul Reubens, Geoffrey Rush, Eddie Izzard, Pras, Claire Forlani


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For a while now, I'd been secretly fearing disappointment in this film. The cast is excellent - Janeane Garofalo, Ben Stiller, Paul Reubens, Eddie Izzard, William H. Macy, Geoffrey Rush, Greg Kinnear and Hank Azaria. I thought you could NOT go wrong with this cast, and I'm glad to have been proven right.

A trio of lame superheroes recruit a few more goobers and try to free the benevolent Captain Amazing (Kinnear) from the evil clutches of Casanova Frankenstein (Rush). That's the whole plot, basically, and the rest seems to be a lot of fun character development.

This entire film manages to feel like a comic book, lampoon comic books and pay homage to comic books all at the same time. There's a great deal of obvious and subtle comic-based humor, from the obvious comic book cliches down to the occasionally ridiculous dialog such as "Calming down... rage, subsiding... heart rate, slowing...." Bruce Banner always used to say this kind of stuff out loud to himself when he was trying not to change into the Hulk. It's funny to a comics fan like me.

Stiller is a lot of fun as Mr. Furious, the guy who gets really mad and erroneously believes he gets some sort of strength boost once he does. His constant attempts at being a bad-ass never cease to amuse. Garofalo also has some fun moments as The Bowler, who talks to her bowling ball (that happens to have her dead father's skull in it). Kinnear's smug Captain Amazing is perfect. Macy is as comically deadpan as always as the resident inspirational speaker called The Shoveler - William H. Macy needs to be a huge star. He's always great. It's also fun to see Reubens in a major role once again. Pee-Wee got a bum rap.

The interplay between these characters is the most fun. From Mr. Furious, The Shoveler and The Blue Raja (Azaria) discussing problems with their themes to all their reactions to The Sphinx (Wes Studi) and Dr. Heller (Tom Waits) are just funny. No two ways about it.

Eddie Izzard, who plays Tony Pompadour, one of the villainous Disco Boys under the command of Frankenstein, is also a hilariously goofy comedian that's had a stand-up special called "Dress To Kill" running on HBO lately. He's vastly underused here, although he still has a small handful of moments. Go check out his stuff - great stream-of-consciousness non-sequitur weirdness, the kind that always makes me laugh.

Mystery Men is a whole lot of fun, and I might be The Blue Raja for Halloween this year.

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