The (very loose) film adaptation of an offshoot of the Flaming Carrot comics, Mystery Men tells the story of a bunch of loser superheroes, constantly overshadowed by the big-name, big-ego Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). While the Trio of Blue Raja (Hank Azaria), Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller) and The Shoveler (William H Macy) try desperately to get themselves taken seriously, Captain Amazing laments the lack of decent villains for him to fight.But after Super Villain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) gets released from a mental institution — thanks to the machinations of Captain Amazing himself, who is rapidly losing his corporate sponsors due to his crime-free city — it's no time at all before he's gathered the local gang leaders (including Eddie Izzard), built himself a super weapon, the Psycho-Fraculator, and captured Amazing.The not- exactly- kinda- eponymous characters are left needing to recruit Champion City's other underdog supers, including The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), The Spleen (Paul Reubens) and Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), train under the enigmatic tutelage of the Sphinx (Wes Studi), using weapons created by Mad Scientist/Gadgeteer Genius Dr. Heller (Tom Waits) in order to save the day.Mystery Men is a superhero/vigilante Affectionate Parody, with bizarre, mostly minimal powers, and an odd look at (and much Lampshade Hanging on) various conventions of the Super Hero Genre, and how they would fit into normal life.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Parodied/inverted- Roy (a.k.a Mr. Furious) would very much like to be a bad boy, and struts around making a fool of himself acting like one in the hope of impressing Monica, the waitress on whom he has a crush. Monica, for her part, is never anything less than dismissive of him... until the point when he finally just starts acting like the sweet Nice Guy he ultimately at heart is, at which point she begins to warm to him.
All Myths Are True: The Shoveler's comment that he heard that the Sphinx could, like, cut guns in half with his mind is obviously supposed to be a wild rumor (Blue Raja even expresses disbelief at it). Turns out it's true.
All-Star Cast: Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Reubens, Hank Azaria, Janeane Garofalo, Kel Mitchell, Eddie Izzard, Tom Waits... maybe this is why the title of the song Smash Mouth made accompanying the film is "All Star".
Always Wanted To Say That: While the Mystery Men are trying to deactivate the Psycho-frakulator, the Shoveler asks Captain Amazing if he knows billionaire Lance Hunt. Annoyed, Amazing replies that they're the same person, before forcing a smile and saying that he always wanted to do that. Of course, the Shoveler doesn't seem to accept that last part.
Ambiguously Gay: The Blue Raja. Not only is his mother discovering his superhero identity played like a coming-out story, when the two Wonder Woman-esque women start catfighting, all of the other men are staring with interest and he just sort of looks vaguely annoyed and confused.
Upping the ambiguous ante, he seems to have some chemistry with the Bowler, who explicitly tells her father that he's not a "fruit" (or a commie).
Anachronism Stew: The movie is implied to be set in 1999, the year of its release (Lance says "let us set the tone for the new millenium", the Blue Raja mentions the British Raj having ruled India "until the early part of this century"), but still takes place in a futuristic supermetropolis with thousand-floor skyscrapers, ever-present zeppelins, billboards cowritten in English and various Asian languages, strange money (the big bills are red, the coins have square holes in them) and bizarre advanced gadgets. All of this is deliberately invoked to parody the conventions of The Dark Age of Comic Books, the recent Schumacher Batman films and alternate-history superhero fiction like Watchmen.
Becky Beaner: Well, whatever you call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these mystery men. The Sphinx: Wait! Wait, that's it! We are... the Super Squad! [awkward silence] The Bowler: No, no, alliteration in these situations is corny.
Ascended Fanboy: Invisible Boy. At the start, he's part of a network of super wannabes that gravitates around a costume store catering to people like them.
Bait and Switch: During the superhero auditions, up walks a dark-costumed muscular man In the Hood and mask with a serious, brooding expression, getting the character's hopes up... he then introduces himself as "Ballerina Man" complete with pink tutu underneath the flowing cloak.
Bedlam House: The asylum that Casanova Frankenstein is locked up in.
Becoming the Boast: Mr. Furious supposedly has the superpower of rage-induced super-strength, but, when called on it near the end of the film, he reveals it's all an act. However, when rescuing the Love Interest from the clutches of the Big Bad, he becomes genuinely furious, genuinely gains rage-induced super-strength, and starts kicking ass.
Berserk Button: Most of the characters. Subverted with Mr. Furious, who acts like everything will set him off in a blind rage.
To be fair, we see in later scenes that their guns do seem to be gold-colored.
Breakaway Pop Hit: "All Star" by Smash Mouth was one of the most popular songs of 1999 and appeared on the Mystery Men film and soundtrack months before the release of their album Astro Lounge. Its high-concept video features all the main cast members of Mystery Men...who were then later cut out after the song far eclipsed the movie in popularity. "All Star"'s subsequent appearance in dozens of movies in the next few years only muddied the waters of its original origin.
Captain Ersatz: Captain Amazing has obvious Batman/Bruce Wayne elements with references to Superman. He's a billionaire lawyer who is secretly a vigilante crimefighter who uses glasses as a mainstay of his disguise.
Captain Ethnic: White Flight and the Black Menace. ("They work together.")
Card-Carrying Villain: All the bad guys. Frankenstein lists off all their nasty deeds at his party and they cheer each time.
Cardboard Prison: Notably averted, since what kickstarts the plot is the lack of supervillains for Captain Amazing to fight.
Chain Pain: One of the disco gang has a chain for a weapon. Mr. Furious hangs a lampshade on this when he asks why it isn't at least a gold chain.
Chekhov's Gun / Deleted Scene: Dr. Heller's Tornado-in-a-Can was intended to be a Chekhov's Gun but ended up on the cutting room floor. Rather than throw The Bowler's bowling ball into Casanova Frankenstein's machine to destroy it, the alternate scene shows them throwing a Tornado-in-a-Can into it instead. The effect for this can still however be seen in the theatrical release; just after they toss the bowling ball in and it does its damage you can see the green swirling smoke coming out of the hole.
Chekhov's Skill: Just about everything The Sphinx teaches the heroes (that stayed through training) is useful at the end, including the group hug.
Civvie Spandex: Most of the group wears their "costumes" all the time (The Shoveler even using his uniform from his job as a miner), especially Invisible Boy, who until the end doesn't even come close to having a costume.
Curbstomp Battle: The final fight between Casanova Frankenstein and Mr. Furious starts out with Casanova completely beating the crap out of him. Once he makes the mistake of triggering Furious' Unstoppable Rage, the tide completely turns in Furious' favor.
When the Disco gang beats up the trio, they literally throw them on the ground and stomp them.
Cursed with Awesome: A mixed blessing with Spleen, who cut the cheese and blamed it on an old gypsy woman who was walking by. She cursed him with farts of amazing potency and accuracy.
Dark Age of Supernames: Parodied when Roy tries to pretend his name is Phoenix Dark (ne้ Dirk Steel), only to give in and say his real name.
Dark Mistress: Dr. Anabel Leek, Cassanova's psychiatrist and then lover.
Empathic Weapon: Carmine, though The Bowler ends up arguing with him more often than not.
Enforced Method Acting: When The Bowler examines the charred, mutilated and partially inside-out corpse of Captain Amazing the actress didn't know that his arm would break off as she tried to take its pulse.
Evil Is Not a Toy: Captain Amazing only wants a better villain to fight, but Casanova Frankenstein quickly gets the upper hand.
Evil Plan: Casanova Frankenstein plans to use the Psycho-De-Fraculator on the city, which will fry their brains. No one knows why he wants to do this, but then again, he did spend the last thirty years in a nut house.
The Leader — The Shoveler, who gives the Rousing Speech. Interestingly, when he says "Leadership, it's what we've been missing." He was looking at Mr.Furious as if disapointed that he didn't live up to this role.
The Lancer — Mr. Furious who contrasts The Shoveler's levelheadedness and fights with his bare hands.
The Smart Guy— The Blue Raja with his vast array of specialized forks and well-researched back story. Also Dr. Heller to an extent.
The Big Guy — The Spleen and The Bowler. The most powerful of the group and most willing to use it.
The Chick — Invisible Boy; seemingly useless but the most optimistic of the group. His powers turn out to be legit, however.
Genre Savvy: Subverted with Casanova Frankenstein. He is Genre Savvy when it comes to dealing with his Arch-Enemy, Captain Amazing, but not when dealing with the Mystery Men.
Happily Married: The Shoveler and his wife, Lucille, may feud over his heroing, but they worry because they love each other.
Heroic BSOD: After his romantic interest tries to convince him to be himself rather than conform to his 'angry' theme, Mr. Furious takes this to mean that he has no powers. He eventually snaps out of it when he gets angry for real.
Heroic Sacrifice: It seemed that Carmine was going to do this at the climax of the movie. Subverted in that A.) He was already dead (a fact that was lampshaded) and B.) It turns out at the end that he 'survived', somewhat to the annoyance of the hero wielding him.
I Call It Vera: Justified in the case of The Bowler, who calls her bowling ball Carmine - because it's possessed by the spirit of her father Carmine (and contains his skull). It talks back, although only she can hear it.
Casanova is ultimately killed when he is thrown into his own doomsday device.
Tony P. is killed by the "ghost" of Carmine The Bowler - whom he murdered.
Captain Amazing is killed as a direct result of freeing Casanova.
King Incognito: In a deleted scene, the original trio goes looking for the Sphinx at a Mexican restaurant but eventually gives up. One of the waiters later turns out to be the Sphinx(though whether the heroes discover this is not shown).
Legacy Character: The Bowler; her father was a fairly well known crime-fighter before her. Bad guys derisively call her "Baby Bowler" because of this.
Negate Your Own Sacrifice: The Bowler throwing her ball (containing the spirit of Carmine the Bowler) into the Psycho-Frakulator.
The Bowler: Now, the good news is you're not going to die, because you're already dead.
Never Trust a Trailer: In one HBO trailer, as the narrator starts with saying something evil is brewing, we get to see a creepy closeup of a man screaming or laughing in the midst of some vortex. It must be important! Nah, it's just the Spleen caught in the demonstration of Heller's tornado in a can, which has never been used after that.
Nice Character, Mean Actor: Captain Amazing. Which is to say that the "real" Captain Amazing is kinda a jerk, despite his heroic reputation.
Nice Hat: The Shoveler wears a hard hat with a spotlight.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When they kill Captain Amazing during a rescue attempt. Of course, Amazing gets the blame for giving such poor instructions.
The Blue Raja: Oh! My God. Oh, my God. We killed him.
The Shoveler: What do you mean we? I was standing right here.
Captain Amazing in his civilian persona, decides to free Casanova so he could have a real villain to fight, and to boost his ratings. Bad idea.
It's also a reference to the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who wore a lot of red.
Also possibly with the Spleen; an organ which acts as a blood filter and doesn't really have to do with flatulence.
The Nudifier: One of Heller's weapons causes fabric to shrink. When used on a gang of scantily-clad women, it incapacitates them... and makes Mr Furious feel like his trousers are a little tight, too.
Only Sane Man: Mr. Furious is the only one who thinks that Lance Hunt is Captain Amazing. He's also the only one who sees that the Sphinx just makes up his "mysterious" sayings by rearranging the words.
Our Founder: A gigantic neon-lit statue of Captain Amazing.
The Bowler: So you're a British man who converted to Islam, sort of like Cat Stevens? Blue Raja: No. Until the early part of this century, India was in fact part of the British Empire, whose government there was called the British Raj after the Hindi word for "sovereignty". Furthermore The Bowler: Wait so sorry. [to her bowling ball] What? Dad! No, he's not a commie, nor a fruit. [to the Blue Raja] Sorry. His ignorance embarrasses me.
Blue Raja as Superego; obsessed with history and social conventions.
Mr. Furious as Id; "I am a ticking timebomb of fury"
Power Walk: Played straight, then parodied as Mr. Furious doesn't feel powerful enough to continue, and turns around. The two nearest just hook him under the arms and keep walking, dragging him along without even turning their heads.
Mr. Furious is constantly trying to come up with these, but as the Bowler accurately points out 'your wit is a hindrance, so nothing is provocative — it's all mixed metaphors." He does, however, manage to come up with a pretty good one when he finallygets dangerous:
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Captain Amazing would normally be more than enough to thwart the evil Casanova Frankenstein's plans for mass destruction ... except he's dead now. Our only hope is a bunch of rag-tag superhero wannabes.
The Shoveler: "Amazing is gone. There's no use waiting for the cavalry, because as of this moment, the cavalry is us. This is our fight, whether we like it or not. Just we few. We're not your classic superheroes. We're not the favorites. We're the other guys. We're the guys nobody ever bets on."
Reality Warping: The Psycho-Frankulator seems to be a weaponized form of this. It just warps its target until they die.
The Shoveler: This is egg salad. It's loaded with cholesterol. The wife won't even let me touch it. Hardly seems to matter now, 'cause chances are, we're already dead. Amazing is gone. There's no use waiting for the cavalry, because as of this moment, the cavalry is us. This is our fight, whether we like it or not. Just we few. We're not your classic superheroes. We're not the favorites. We're the other guys. We're the guys nobody ever bets on. But I'll tell you what I think. ... We're all in over our heads, and we know it. But if we take on this fight, those of us who survive it will forever after show our scars with pride, and say, 'That's right! I was there! I fought the good fight!' So whatdaya say? Do we all gather together, and go kick some Casanova butt? Or do I eat this sandwich?
Rummage Sale Rejects: Not just the Mystery Men; all the wannabes dress wear mismatched or dirty equipment.
Running Gag: "Why don't you tell me?" "Why don't you tell me?"
Also the heroes completely failing to agree on a name for their gang, leading to a subverted Title Drop at the end.
Secret Identity: Played completely straight with Captain Amazing and the Sphinx, but subverted with the rest of the Mystery Men - they don't wear masks, but are still fairly secretive about their real names. The Shoveler (Eddie), the Blue Raja (Jeffrey) and Mr. Furious (Roy) use first names fairly freely when not in battle, the Bowler's (Carol) is said only once, and we don't hear their full names or learn Invisible Boy, Spleen or the Sphinx's real names at all.
Shoe Phone: Played with in the scene where Captain Amazing initially confronts Casanova Frankenstein and tells him to deactivate a variety of weapons hidden in normally benign objects, only to be snared by a portable enticement snare that looks like a remote detonator.
Shout Out: The scene where Casanova Frankenstein gathers the various gimmicked gangs of Champion City together at his mansion in an effort to unite them all under his rule, culminating with the rousing cry, "Can you dig it?" is a shout out to The Warriors.
Spandex, Latex, or Leather: One of the most eclectic mixtures in any medium, involving a bit of just about everything - Captain Amazing's costume is molded rubber and chrome armour covered in sponsored ads, while supervillain Casanova Frankenstein displays a taste for multiple velvet outfits and strange gold jewlerly. The Mystery Men themselves all sport low-budget, piecemeal "costumes": The Shoveler wears mining equipment, a catcher's chest pad and jeans, the Blue Raja a thrift-store quality Indian ensemble, Mr. Furious a black leather motorcycle outfit with a black leather Badass Longcoat over it, etc. After meeting the Sphinx (who wears a vinyl cowl and billowing black velvet robes, later revealed to have dazzling blue and silver spandex hidden beneath), they sew proper costumes, which incorporate spandex (Spleen and Sphinx), leather (Furious and the Bowler), silver mail (Shoveler), ornately colourful jewel-covered fabrics (the Blue Raja) and what appears to be an elaborately painted mural of Champion City (the Invisible Boy).
Super Hero: Parodies the genre. The only ones with genuine superpowers are Spleen, Sphinx, and Invisible Boy.
Superheroes Wear Tights: Mostly averted, as it primarily homages Darker and Edgier comic styles that were more about leather and combat gear, but played straight by the Sphinx and the Spleen in the final act(the Sphinx's boots imply that he was always wearing the tights under his robes of mystery, however).
Super Strength: Mr. Furious, but only when his Unstoppable Rage really has kicked in. It's stated he once pushed a bus all on his own (despite him making excuses due to presently suffering a Heroic BSOD at the time). Proven when triggered at the end, which allows him to manhandle Casanova.
That Poor Cat: Happens while The Blue Raja is using a dartboard for target practice.
Technical Pacifist: Doctor Heller, who designs nonlethal weapons, such as the "Shrinker" (which causes the target's clothing to contract painfully tight) and the "Blame-thrower" (which startsarguments).
This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Played with for Invisible Boy. He can only turn invisible when no one is looking at him, which seems useless until they encounter an automated defense system. Which is not exactly uncommon, really.
Victory Is Boring: After putting away every supervillain in the city, Captain Amazing is left with only incompetent gangs of thugs, which prompts him to get Casanova Frankenstein released.
Wax On, Wax Off: Parodied when the Sphinx trains the eponymous squad with a series of bizarre physical feats justified by odd wordplay, as seen in this exchange:
Mr. Furious: Why am I balancing a hammer on my head? The Sphinx: When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you can head off your foes with a balancedattack! Mr. Furious: And why do I have these watermelons on my feet? The Sphinx: [beat] I don't remember asking you to do that.
What a Piece of Junk: The Herkimer Battle Jitney. Roy finds it in a junkyard and Heller tells him how great it is.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Dr. Annabelle Leek joins Casanova as his evil concubine, then vanishes without a trace halfway through the movie.
When it's not Mundane Made Awesome. The Shoveler's power is to shovel really well. There's a scene in the movie where his wife expresses exasperation because most people don't take things like that as a reason to become a superhero.