Mystery Men

Mystery Men

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kinka Usher
Produced by
Written by
Based on Flaming Carrot Comics
by Bob Burden
Music by Stephen Warbeck
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Edited by Conrad Buff
Golar Productions
Dark Horse Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • August 6, 1999 (1999-08-06)
Running time
120 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $68 million[2]
Box office $33.5 million[2]

Mystery Men is a 1999 American superhero comedy film directed by Kinka Usher and written by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden, loosely based on Burden's Flaming Carrot Comics, and starring Hank Azaria, Claire Forlani, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard, Greg Kinnear, William H. Macy, Kel Mitchell, Lena Olin, Paul Reubens, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Stiller, Wes Studi, and Tom Waits. The film details the story of a trio of lesser superheroes with unimpressive powers who are required to save the day.

Despite its list of stars, Mystery Men made a little over $33 million worldwide against a $68 million budget.[2]


In the metropolis of Champion City, the would-be superhero team of Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), the Shoveler (William H. Macy), and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) attempt to make a name for themselves, but their suspect skills make them ineffective, and they find themselves upstaged by the city's most successful superhero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). However, Amazing is finding that his effectiveness at fighting crime has practically made his job obsolete, and without any worthy adversaries remaining (some of them are either dead, in exile, or still in jail), his corporate sponsors are beginning to pull their funding. To create a need for himself, Amazing uses his alter ego, billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, to argue for the release of insane supervillain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush). The plan backfires; once reunited with Tony P (Eddie Izzard) and his Disco Boys, Casanova Frankenstein blows up the insane asylum, captures Amazing, and prepares to unleash a doomsday device: the "Psycho-frakulator", which lethally bends reality. Mr. Furious, while spying on Casanova Frankenstein's mansion, discovers Amazing's capture and informs the others.

After an unsuccessful rescue attempt, the three realize they need more allies, and through word-of-mouth and try-outs, they recruit Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), the Spleen (Paul Reubens), and the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo). The newly formed team "assaults" Casanova, which only succeeds in annoying him and damaging his car. While drunk from celebrating their victory, the team is nearly killed in retaliation by Tony P and the Disco Boys, but they are saved at the last minute by the Sphinx (Wes Studi). The Sphinx trains them, but his methods annoy Mr. Furious – he has them complete rote team-building exercises and speaks exclusively in Chiasmus. They also seek out mad scientist Doc Heller (Tom Waits), who specializes in non-lethal weaponry, to equip them for their battle.

The group breaks into Casanova's mansion during a gathering of several of the city's gangs; but, while attempting to free Captain Amazing, they inadvertently set off the Psycho-frakulator, killing him instead. Without Amazing, the team despairs of saving the city, but the Shoveler delivers a pep-talk that succeeds in uniting and inspiring them.

With new-found purpose, they assault the mansion and, by making effective use of their negligible superpowers and Heller's weapons, manage to subdue most of Casanova Frankenstein's henchmen. Unfortunately, as the heroes approach Casanova Frankenstein, he reveals that he is holding Mr. Furious' girlfriend Monica (Claire Forlani) hostage, and proceeds to activate the Psycho-frakulator, which begins to wreak havoc upon the city. While the team tries to stop the device, Mr. Furious takes on Casanova Frankenstein. After initially taking a beating, Mr. Furious unleashes his inner rage and manages to fight effectively for the first time. He defeats Casanova Frankenstein, who is thrown into the core of the Psycho-frakulator and killed by its reality-bending powers. The rest of the team helps The Bowler use her bowling ball to destroy the device and escape the mansion as it implodes.

The team is interviewed by reporters, begging to know their team name. As they argue among themselves, one reporter states "Well, whatever you may call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these 'Mystery Men'," but the others are too busy arguing to hear it.



Paul Reubens stated that every actor was given a considerable amount of time.[3] Each actor participated in the process of creating the mood and atmosphere of the movie.[3] They were joined by top-notch creative forces behind the camera.[3]

For the creation of Champion city production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli was challenged to create an imaginary city with traces to realism.[3] Director Kink Usher said of the city "I wanted the city's exteriors to feel like a Hong Kong harbor ... You go visit any major city today and you will see an Asian neighborhood, a Spanish neighborhood... He then said they created a near-future reality.[3]" Petruccelli state ""We wanted to create a retro European or worldwide vibe to Champion City.[3]" Cassanova's mansion was inspired by engineering from the Spanish designer Gaudi, but the diner where Monica befriends Furious, works, is more like '40s Americana.[3]

The film is full of color.[3] Each character has their own world and each has a color palette conceived for them.[3] Petruccelli said "Casanova Frankenstein's world is fundamentally insane so his house is full of coloration. The Invisible Boy on the other hand, lives in a monochromatic world.[3]"


The musical score for Mystery Men was composed by Stephen Warbeck. Written within a twenty-eight-day time span, the score was recorded on the Sony Scoring Stage.[4] "I was quite liberal in the choice of instruments, because I've chosen a couple of Hungarian instruments, the tárogató and the cimbalom, and also a Greek instrument, the bouzouki," said Warbeck on the film's range of sounds. "And then Mike Fisher and the other percussionists have brought along an exciting range of stuff which are so interesting and varied that we keep picking bits of those and adding them in."[5] After Warbeck's contributions were completed, the film's producers decided to alter various scenes. Because of this, composer Shirley Walker was brought in to create additional music and rearrange Warbeck's score to fit the new running time.[4]

A soundtrack album was released on July 6, 1999 by Interscope Records.[6]

Track listing
1."Back In 1999"  John Oszajca3:45
2."All Star"  Smash Mouth3:19
3."Keep Keep Movin'"  Dub Pistols3:42
4."The Mystery Men Mantra" (feat. Terry Bradford, Wil Wheaton & Nancye Ferguson)Mark Mothersbaugh4:11
5."No Way"  Freak Power4:14
6."Who Are Those Mystery Men" (feat. Romaine Jones)Kel and the M.A.F.T. Emcees4:08
7."Rainy Day Parade"  Jill Sobule3:05
8."Sometimes"  Michael Franti & Spearhead3:48
9."Won't You Come Down"  Spy4:04
10."Gangster"  Citizen King2:43
11."No More Heroes"  Violent Femmes2:54
12."Indigo"  Moloko3:34
13."Disco Inferno"  The Trammps3:34
14."Night Fever"  Bee Gees3:30
15."Mystery Men Oath"  Ben Stiller & William H. Macy0:42

Additional songs featured in the film include:


Box office

In its opening weekend, Mystery Men grossed $10,017,865, ranking number six at the domestic box office.[7] By the end of its run, on October 14, the film had grossed $29,762,011 domestically and $3,699,000 overseas, for a worldwide total of $33,461,011. Given its $68 million budget, the film is a box office bomb.[2]

Critical response

The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 60% based on 101 reviews; the consensus states: "Absurd characters and quirky gags are brought to life by a talented cast, providing this superhero spoof with lots of laughs."[8] On Metacritic, the film has a 65/100 rating based on 24 critics, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[9]

Jonathan Romney said that it was "a desperately hit-and-miss affair".[10] Michael Dequina of The Movie Report said that it "fails to come up with worthy gags and one-liners for the able cast."[11] Steve Murray of Cox News Service gave it a negative review, saying "Mystery Men is like its hapless heroes. It's a wannabe that has the best intentions – including a pronounced anti-gun stance – but none of the knack it takes to save the day, or itself."[12]

British television channel Film4 gave it a positive review, saying it was "Hugely entertaining – especially for those with a thing for superheroes."[13]


  1. "MYSTERY MEN (PG)". United International Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. September 8, 1999. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Mystery Men". Box Office Mojo. October 14, 1999. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "each actor shared in the collaborative process of creating the mood, atmosphere and comedy". Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  4. 1 2 Koppi, Rudy (June 16, 2013). "Stephen Warbeck on Scoring Mystery Men". The CinemaScore & Soundtrack. Archived from the original on June 24, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  5. "Robogeek checks in on MYSTERY MEN... and interviews Stephen Warbeck!". Ain't It Cool News. June 25, 1999. Archived from the original on June 24, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  6. "Mystery Men - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  7. "Weekend Box Office Results for August 6-8, 1999". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. August 9, 1999. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  8. "Mystery Men". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 23, 2012.
  9. "Mystery Men Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  10. "Mystery Men 1999". BFI Sight & Sound. Archived from the original on November 12, 2009. Retrieved August 18, 2012.
  11. "Archive Volume 53". The Movie Report. Retrieved August 18, 2012.
  12. "Mystery Men". Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Access Atlanta. Archived from the original on October 20, 2006. Retrieved August 18, 2012.
  13. "Mystery Men - Film4". Retrieved December 3, 2012.
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