In Short: Universal produces a nice special edition, but the movie's still a "renter".
Original Review From August, 1999:
A very big movie with a handful of tiny ideas, "Mystery Men" is a movie with a few jokes up its sleeve, but definitely not enough to extend over two hours. It's generally one big mess- a stew of special effects, awkward action, lack of editing and enormous sets ready to swallow it all whole.
Greg Kinnear(very annoying) stars as Captain Amazing, the resident superhero of Champion City. Not only does he fight crime, he gets ad deals(decals are plastered across his suit like a race-car driver.) When he finds that he's about to lose his deal with Pepsi, he decides to free Cassanova Frankenstein(Geoffrey Rush) from jail, giving him someone to fight, since all of his other enemies are in prison.
Of course, he gets captured and it's up to our band of heroes to save him. They include the Blue Raja(Hank Azaria), a guy who throws forks and spoons; Mr. Furious(Ben Stiller), who has incredible temper tantrums; The Bowler(Jeneane Garofalo), who throws a bowling ball with her father's skull inside; the shoveler(William H. Macy), who hits people with his shovel. They're also joined by Invisible Boy(Kel Mitchell), The Spleen(Paul Rubens) and The Sphinx(Wes Studi).
The scenes play like little episodes of their own- three of the heros recruit the rest of the team in a shoveler's backyard and all of the "superheros" of the town show up to try out, for example. The only problem with the scenes played for comedy is that they don't know when enough is enough. Scenes are allowed to go on, and on, and on. There's a point where extending a scene can work for humor(see the "Austin Powers" series), but it has to be funny. This film just isn't funny. It goes far past the point of being too long in these scenes, not only ruining any comedy, but making the film almost exhausting to sit through. The action scenes don't fare much better- most of them are a mess of people running around fighting in a style of the "bop!" "oof!" "ouch!" style of the old "Batman" series. There's simply traffic problems with these scenes, it's not made perfectly clear who's where and who's doing what. I would have fallen asleep during this picture if it wasn't so noisy.
The film really isn't a satire or parody of the superhero genre, in my opinion(it's not even as smart as some of the film's it's trying to poke fun at and it's just as excessive). It's a goofy movie with a supply of bathroom humor(the Spleen fights with farts) that's aimed at a kid/young teen audience. Maybe they'll enjoy this film, but personally, I found the jokes to be predictable(Kinnear's Captain Amazing also has a mild-mannered form as a billionaire) and unfunny.
The sets? The sets and scenery of the city are breathtaking. Millions and millions spent and some scenes are more amazing than what Schumacher did with the sets of Gotham city. These giant backdrops seem really out of place though, in a movie like this- there's more comedy here than action and the cities seem more like a display of what Hollywood can do rather than have the movie put them to much use. Did this movie need a reported 75 million dollars spent? The only reason this film didn't cost as much as the last couple of the "Batman" series is that the actors simply didn't cost as much.
Again, the picture could have used some excessive editing(at least 20-25 minutes could easily have been taken out). Many scenes, including the superhero recruiting party, could have been cut- or many of the discussions where the Sphinx tries to teach our heroes his ways through a lot of nonsense discussion. Either way, scenes go on to the point of no return frequently in this film making for a very tiring viewing experience. The film's more bizarre moments(the bad guys love disco) aren't funny, they're simply odd.
All in all, this is what happens when good actors get stuck in a really poor picture. Reportedly, Stiller was convinced to join this picture by long-time friend Garofalo. Bad advice. The biggest mystery here is where the missing humor is hiding, because it certainly wasn't found during this picture's two hour length.
After watching the film again at home, I did laugh a few more times than I did while watching it in the theater, but my complaint still stands: there's no reason why this film had to be a little over two hours long.
Very good, but not great,anamorphic transfer from Universal. Images are certainly clear throughout and sharp enough, but there were times when I thought that they could stand to be still a little sharper. Colors are the image's highlight for most of the movie; the movie uses a wild color palette and it looks fantastic on the DVD - colors are vibrant and well-saturated throughout. Detail is quite good, showing off the incredible scenery well. Black level is strong and flesh tones are accurate, as well.
There are some flaws, but really only in trace amounts that aren't terribly distracting; a bit of shimmer on occasion and a stray bit of pixelation. Other than that, this is definitely a pleasing transfer, but not the best I've seen from Universal.
SOUND: Fares better than the picture, with some really enjoyable and effective surround effects at times, and a good deal of bass. The final battle sequence really gives the audio a good workout. Music also fares well; the movie contains some great songs and they all sound excellent. Dialogue is consistently clear and without problems.
MENUS:: There are times when I don't mind basic, non-animated menus, but then there are movies like this where great animated menus would have been perfect. Oh well. And the thing that makes me furious about Universal titles still holds true: you have to go to the menu to switch the audio from commentary to film or film to commentary.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Kinka Usher. I really found this to be one of the more interesting commentaries I've listened to lately. The director is able to provide information throughout the picture with only a few small pauses. Of course, on a movie like this, the main focus of a lot of the discussion is the special effects as well as how the sets were built, but there is also a good deal devoted to what it was like to work with the various actors. Usher sounds at least energetic about sharing facts and notes about the movie, and I have to say he really kept me interested in his discussion. I've found a few commentaries lately where the participants didn't seem interested, but that wasn't the case here. Recommended.
Deleted Scenes: A collection of quite a few deleted scenes is offered, but again, they were probably cut due to time on a movie that's already overlong. A few funny bits, though.
Featurette: The usual "spotlight on location" mini-documentary that appears on most Universal discs. Sometimes they can be quite good ("American Pie"), but unfortunately, this one really offers nothing much in the way of new information.
Trailers: Mystery Men, Man On the Moon, Snow Falling On Cedars, American Pie(5.1); Army Of Darkness, Darkman(2.0)
Also: Cast/Crew Bios, Production Notes, Text On The Origin Of The Mystery Men, Music Highlights, Music Video.
Final Thoughts Recommended as a rental - I enjoyed it a little more at home than in the theater. Although it's not listed anywhere on the box, Universal has put together a really nice special edition for "Mystery Men".
The Film 70/C- = (350/500 possible points)
Video 90/A = (360/400 possible points)
Audio: 92/B = (368/400 possible points)
Extras: 87/B = (261/300 possible points)
Menus 70/C = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 89/B+ = (267/300 possible points)