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Old November 5 2012, 10:02 PM   #1
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Location: Washington State
Revisiting MYSTERY MEN in a post-Avengers world

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

I revisited Mystery Men this past weekend for maybe the first time since its theatrical release, and definitely the first time in over a decade. I've always had fond memories of it, not only from quoting Mr. Furious' and the Sphinx's lines with friends, but also from the fact that a one-act play I wrote in my Junior year of high school was basically a riff on the movie, with a too-single liberalism-championing Batman type trying to get a date while confronting his evil nemesis once more. The mystery at hand (har, har): would it hold up?

Happily, I can confidently answer this riddle with a delighted, "Oh, HELL yes."

"He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions."

Whoever thought of making William H. Macy a superhero deserves a key to the city. Ben Stiller's Mr. Furious is awesomely sarcastic, Hank Azaria's the Blue Raja is wonderfully loopy and all the other players are solid - Paul Reubens' perpetually flatulent moper was far less grating than I feared he'd be - but Macy is the truly the movie's soul. There's genuine, deeper poignancy in his fear of losing his wife and kids to his crime-fighting obsession than anything in Nolan's over-ballyhooed Bat-flicks.

"Lucille, God gave me a gift. I shovel well. I shovel very well."

"Honey, you shovel better than any man I've ever known, but that does not make you a superhero."

Meanwhile, when Green Lantern came out last year, people desperate to find something nice to say about it admired the moment in which the girl recognizes the Hal Jordan despite his mask, which didn't even extend below the nose. I eventually saw this clip after hearing it praised many times over, and was sorely disappointed: the scene starts a good ten-fifteen seconds prior, before she starts recognizing him in spite of his non-disguise, thus ruining the gag. I mean, Superman Returns had a better meta-moment on seeing through the alter ego, but I don't think anything can top Mystery Men's take:
The Shoveller: If we had a billionaire like Lance Hunt as our benefactor...

Mr. Furious: That's because Lance Hunt IS Captain Amazing!

The Shoveller: Oh, don't start that AGAIN. Lance Hunt wears glasses; Captain Amazing DOESN'T wear glasses.

Mr. Furious: He takes them off when he transforms...

The Shoveller: That doesn't make any sense; he wouldn't be able to see!

It's hilarious because it goofs on both the disguise and those fooled by it, plus Macy's simultaneously hurt and indignant denial takes it to a whole extra level.

Shout-outs are also due to Geoffrey Rush and his delicious accent, Greg Kinnear's first-rate Captain Amazing, Wes Studi's Sphinx and Tom Waits' Heller.

Random further observations:

- I liked how at no point does Jeanine Garafolo get prettied/dolled up, and her acidity is genuinely bracing throughout, especially when she ad-libs her thanks to indie movie supporters at the end of a big, loud wannabe-blockbuster.

- I also have to give a shout-out to the fact that the blackness of Macy's wife and kids are in no way noted/commented on.

- The script is tighter than I'd expected, with plenty of satisfying setups and payoffs.

- The art direction is always interesting, and at times awesomely weird, never more so than in the trippy nursing home bash.

- I like that the Sphinx actually accompanied them on the big mission. Wasn't expecting that.

- Got a big laugh out of the fact that the only recognizable character from actual pop culture is Wonder Woman... portrayed by two amateurs at the superhero audition, who get into a cat fight, presciently casting doubt on the heroine's big-screen potential.

In short, this is a fun and funny flick that plays even better in our current superhero movie glut/golden age. It's a high-energy, zany comedy that remains Michael Bay's best film. (Even though he only cameos.) Finally, I can't believe I forgot the following immortal words, which I'll just have to always recall henceforth:
"We've got a blind date with destiny... and it looks like she's ordered the lobster."

Grade: A-
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