Monkey Movie Review – Mystery Men [2009]

As you’ve seen, the Monkey likes to check out older films, and I hope you find this useful. This one is a good 15 years old. I remember when it came out and recall thinking that I wanted to see it, mainly because of the star-studded comedy cast: Hank Azaria, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard, Greg Kinnear, William H. Macy, Kel Mitchell, Paul Reubens, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Stiller, and Tom Waits. Wow, huh?

Well Y2K happened, and time went on, and this slipped into the hazy memories of an aging simian. Recently, I stumbled across this on a movie channel and decided to revisit it.

It’s loosely based on the Flaming Carrot Comics, something I am not familiar with. Back in the day it was all Wolverine for me.

This movie is no Wolverine. Nor is it even close to a Guardians. The kind of care that goes into current superhero movies is not evident in this one, except for the acting.

The plot surrounds a superhero, Captain Amazing, in the metropolis of Champion City, and the success he’s had at shutting down basically all crime. A group of wannabe superheroes, including Mr. Furious (Stiller), The Shoveler (H. Macy), and The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) are trying to break into the business without much luck. After a villain named Casanova Frankenstein is released from prison, and something happens to Captain Amazing, these second class superheroes attempt to gather some help from The Sphinx (a local sage) and from other local superheroes to fight the villain.

Add in a list of odd potential superheroes, a few that are added to the team, and some concerned family members and that wraps up pretty much the whole movie.

The movie is just not very funny. And that’s a shame because the talented actors give it their all. They are earnestly and honestly giving this the straight treatment, no one (other than maybe Stiller, who does it all the time) are trying to ham it up or cheese it for jokes.  Macy delivers lines that are ridiculous with the straightest of faces.

Unlike The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, I didn’t find this movie insultingly stupid. It is just bland. I chuckled a few times at Stiller doing his anger schtick followed by his hurt-feelings schtick. We’ve seen it before. The movie tries to add some family stress by introducing The Shoveler’s wife and kids. And then there’s the Blue Raja’s mom. But they are superficial – no care is induced in the viewer.

As each super-villain or superhero is introduced, I kept expecting the movie to do something truly innovative or hilarious, but nothing. When Eddie Izzard is introduced as the lead of The Disco Boys, I thought something special will happen. Nothing. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Disco boys: disco music, mild disco dancing, outrageous clothes. And Izzard seems restrained.  He’s a funny guy, normally! And this happens over and over in the movie. Paul Reuben’s character’s super ability is passing gas? That’s the best they could come up with?

It’s as if the movie was a bunch of pitch ideas that individually and superficially seemed funny to the writers, but then it was handed to assistant writers, who added no depth in the execution.

Thankfully most recent superhero movies take the time to write compelling scripts first. I can’t help but wonder how well this movie would have been, with this all-star cast and a different good, clever, funny script. I guess we’ll never know, unless, Lord have mercy, Mystery Men 2 comes at us.

So, on a scale of one to five bananas, the monkey gives this two bananas. It’s watchable, and the cast really gives it their all, but there’s nothing much new in this movie and nothing to laugh about.

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