These days, every major comic book adaptation comes burdened with lashings of comedy through well-placed quips and one-liners, but two decades ago the prospect of an ensemble-based superhero movie designed exclusively to generate laughs from the audience was virtually unheard of.
Perhaps the biggest misfortune to befall Mystery Men was that it released in 1999, when the genre at large was sitting at an uncertain crossroads. Just two years previously, Batman & Robin had bombed and gained a reputation as one of the worst blockbusters ever made, but Kinka Usher’s effort awkwardly arrived on either side of Wesley Snipes’ Blade and Bryan Singer’s X-Men.
The cast possessed very little in the way of star power and name recognition outside of Ben Stiller, who was relatively hot from the success of There’s Something About Mary, but still very much an unproven quantity as a leading man. The actor played Mr. Furious, part of the titular squad assembled to save Champion City from the clutches of the nefarious Casanova Frankenstein.
Along for the ride are a ragtag group of would-be costumed crimefighters that include a man who can only turn invisible when nobody’s watching, a deadly accurate marksman who exclusively throws cutlery that aren’t knives, the flatulent Spleen, and the daughter of a former superhero who carries her father’s head around inside a bowling ball.
Mystery Men is every bit as irreverent and ludicrous as it sounds, but it’s also one of the most criminally underrated entries in the genre’s history, so it’s definitely worth checking out now that the cult classic is back on Netflix.