The (very loose) 1999 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 how his career is stalling with no more high-profile villains left to defeat.
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-frakulator, 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.
Mystery Men provides examples of:
- 11th-Hour Superpower: It turns out that Mr. Furious really does have rage-induced powers, he just doesn't have the hair-trigger temper he claims to have.
- '90s Anti-Hero: Parodied. Roy/Mr. Furious wants to be one of these so very, very much, but the result is often quite lame because he's actually a meek, gentle guy and not the formidable rage monster he wants to be.
- Abhorrent Admirer: The Spleen for The Bowler. She turns him down quite gracefully, considering how persistent he is.Bowler: There isn't enough beer in the world, Spleen. I'm sorry.
- Action Girl: The Bowler wipes out enemies by throwing a mystic bowling ball possessed by the soul of her father, the original Bowler.
- Actor Allusion:
Yes, of course you may bring ze brewskies.
- Possibly unintentional. Janeane Garofalo's father's name is actually Carmine.
- Eddie Izzard's character makes a reference to "the god of haircare". In his Stand-Up Comedy routine, he mentions that the Romans previously had crappy gods, like Simon, the God of Hairdos.
- Captain Amazing's agent objects to Amazing's recent activities, complaining, "I'm not a magician!" The actor, Ricky Jay, really was in fact a famous card magician.
- When the Blue Raja sits on the fork he shouts 'Claven' - the catchphrase of Professor Frink, also voiced by Hank Azaria.
- And depending on your interpretation, there could be something significant about Michael Bay being cast as the leader of the Fratboys gang ("Can we bring the brewskies?")
- Aerosol Flamethrower: Tony P. uses what appears to be a custom one of these in his final confrontation with the Bowler.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Captain Amazing, who has the best reputation of all heroes, actively bargains to be the villain's assistant upon being captured and locked into a death trap.
- Alas, Poor Yorick: Carol carries Carmine's skull around with her in a bowling ball.
- 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.
- 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 is left in just as much doubt.
- 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 millennium", the Blue Raja mentions the British Raj having ruled India "until the early part of this century"), but still takes place in a futuristic super-metropolis 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 contemporary Schumacher Batman films and alternate-history superhero fiction like Watchmen.
- Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Used to subvert a Title Drop, as they try to think up a team name.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.
- Audible Sharpness: Blue Rajah's forks and spoons make stereotypical blade "whoosh" noises.
- Awesome McCoolname:
- Casanova Frankenstein. In fact, according to the DVD extras, he was chosen because he had a cool-sounding name.
- Mr. Furious briefly attempts to convince his crush that his name is Phoenix Dark, before admitting that his name is actually Roy. It's part of his super hero 'image' as a Hot-Blooded brawler.
- Badass Longcoat: Mister Furious wears a black overcoat, drives a black motorcycle and refers to himself as the "lone wolf".
- Badass Normal: The original trio. After the Training Montage they upgrade to Weak, but Skilled.
- Bad Boss: Casanova Frankenstein, who at one point kills a couple of his own henchmen just to make a point to the heroes.
- 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 is a dark and dreary place for psychos.
- 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 actnote . 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. He actually does have super-strength when he legitimately gets enraged, instead of posturing or consciously trying to rile himself up.
- Berserk Button: Most of the characters. Mr. Furious is intentionally trying to invoke this trope, without much success. Even the villains are better at it:Tony P: Disco is NOT dead! Disco is LIFE!!
- The Berserker: Subverted with Mr. Furious who acts like one but really isn't. It's just an act. Until the ending, where he truly fits the role.
- Big Bad: Casanova Frankenstein leads the minor villains and executes an Evil Plan.
- Big Electric Switch: Several, and one must be careful about how many times one flips each one because otherwise you could kill someone.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Captain Amazing acts like The Cape for the press but he's truly a selfish jerkass. Only his publicist sees this side of him.
- The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Initially, Blue Raja's forks bounce off everything, until the Sphinx teaches him to concentrate on the throwing itself rather than stylizing the throws, and then they always strike point-first (hard enough to be used as climbing spikes).
- Black Comedy: "I don't think he's gonna pull through."
- Blame Game: The Blame-Thrower.
- Bling-Bling-BANG!: Tony P and Tony C both have very nice looking pistols modified to look disco-like.
- Bond One-Liner: "Fraku-later, Frankenpuss."
- Boring, but Practical: Demonstrated with the weapon choices of Tony P's disco gang and lampshaded by the heroes.Mr. Furious: What? Guns? That's your power, you shoot guns?
The Blue Raja: There's no theme at all here.
Mr. Furious: Weak.
The Blue Raja: At best.
[a Disco Boy wields a pipe]
The Shoveler: And who are you supposed to be, the Disco Plumber?
[another Disco Boy wields a heavy chain]
Mr. Furious: See, you've got a chain, you could at least make it a gold chain. And that's just off the top of my head.
Tony C: Top of your head, huh?
Cue Curb-Stomp Battle.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Bowler is arguably the most powerful member of the team, and would likely be far more efficient if she didn't come off as so... spacey sometimes. (Her father does talk to her, but the others find it very hard to realize that at first, and she presents an attitude that seems sort of crazy.)
- Calling Shotgun: When the gang is piling into the Shoveler's station wagon.Spleen: Shotgun!
Blue Raja: Yes, well, I already called it, didn't I?
- The Cameo:
- When Casanova Frankenstein gathers the various gangs of Champion City together in an attempt to unite them, the leader of "The Frat Boys" is played by Michael Bay.
- "The Waffler" from the superhero tryout scene is played by a pre-fame Dane Cook.
- Pencil Head is played by Doug Jones.
- The gang "The Not-So-Goodie Mob" is played by... the Goodie Mob.
- Dana Gould as Squeegee-Man.
- 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: Averted, since what kickstarts the plot is the lack of free-roaming supervillains for Captain Amazing to fight. A couple of Awesome Mc Coolname types are mentioned as being out of action for good... so he invokes the trope and gets one released — one potent enough to give him a fight worthy of publicizing... one which kicks his ass, leaving the Mystery Men to save the day.Vic: Look, I'm a publicist, not a magician. You want big news, you have to have big fights. A superhero needs a supervillain and, thanks to you, we've got none left.
Cpt. Amazing: Then get the...th..Deathman
Vic: Deathman is dead.
Cpt. Amazing: Okay. Father Doom?
Vic: Life without parole. Apocalypto's doing fifty years, Armagezzmo's in exile, Baron von Chaos got the chair...
Cpt. Amazing: Really?
Vic: Casanova Frankenstein is locked up in a nut-house.
Cpt. Amazing: Casanova Frankenstein — now there was a supervillain! You know, he just... he's got those eyes, you know? I can't do it, but... and that voice! Such pure evil! The battles we used to have — extraordinary!
Vic: "Used to." That's the problem, Captain. "Used to."
Cpt. Amazing: (Meaningful Look)
- 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.
- Cheap Costume: Everyone.
- Chekhov's Gun: 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 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.
- Near the start of the film, Mr. Furious is instructed to tear down an old armored Herkimer at the auto yard where he works. We don't hear about it for the rest of the film until just before the final battle when heroes repair and upgrade it to bust into Casanova's mansion and to not only withstand his goons' initial assault, but strip them of their guns as well, making their suicide mission much more feasible.
- Chekhov's Skill: Just about everything The Sphinx teaches the heroes (that stayed through training) is useful at the end, including the group hug. The one exception is the watermelons on the feet but Sphinx doesn't remember telling Roy to do that.
- City of Adventure: Champion City was obviously one in its prime, but the overwhelming success of Captain Amazing has reduced the adventure level quite a bit.
- City of Weirdos: The "superheroes" are ubiquitous and by-and-large not taken seriously by the public, but a geeky subculture of superhero wannabes exists.
- Civvie Spandex: Most of the group wears their "costumes" all the time (The Shoveler even using his uniform from his job as a sewer excavator), especially Invisible Boy, who until the end doesn't even come close to having a costume.
- The City: Champion City.
- City Noir: Parodied. Roy thinks he's in one of these but the others think he's lame.
- Clark Kenting: Lampshaded with Lance Hunt as Captain Amazing. Mr. Furious has apparently tried to convince his teammates that Hunt is Captain Amazing enough times that the other two treat the idea like a worn-out conspiracy theory.The Shoveler: Oh, don't start that again! Lance Hunt wears glasses. Captain Amazing doesn't wear glasses.
Mr. Furious: He takes them off when he transforms.
The Shoveller: That doesn't make any sense. He wouldn't be able to see!
- Color Character: The Blue Raja, who doesn't wear blue at all (though it makes perfect sense to him, given his supposed ancestry and nation's history). His friends enjoy pointing out the ridiculousness of this. However, in the end, he finally adds a blue shawl to his costume.
- Comeback Tomorrow: In a parody of the usual superhero's witty banter, Mr. Furious's comebacks tend to be either bad, unintelligible or seriously delayed.The Bowler (trying to find Mr. Furious' Berserk Button): Well you've got a lot to be furious about, and I'll tell you why: You're not well-liked. You're, uh, you're abrasive and off-putting. You try and say pithy things, but your wit is a hindrance and so, therefore, nothing is provocative. Just mixed metaphors. Now, doesn't that make you angry? Does it infuriate you?
- The Comically Serious: The Shoveler can talk about comic weirdness with a pitch-perfect straight-faced delivery from William H. Macy.
- Companion Cube: Carmine's skull-in-a-ball. He argues with his daughter constantly but no one else can hear him.
- Cool, but Inefficient: Blue Raja can throw silverware with unerring accuracy, but only when he is trained to give up on theatrics that keep throwing off his aim. And even then, no knives, only forks or spoons. Maybe a pie server if he was really pressed.
- Cool Car:
- The Herkimer Battle Jitney. The "finest non-lethal military vehicle ever made!"
- Casanova's limo, a converted Corvette. Limos don't get any cooler than this.
- Cool Mask: Played straight with the Sphinx (who is "terribly mysterious") but oddly averted for the rest of The Team (Invisible Boy finally includes a pair of goggles when he makes his costume for the final act).
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Carmine The Bowler's death was officially ruled as an accident.Mr. Furious: Seems there was a little controversy there regarding your father's death.
The Bowler: Yes, the police said he fell down an elevator shaft. Onto some bullets.
The Blue Raja: You know, I've always suspected a bit of foul play.
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: Captain Amazing may well be the Trope Maker, given the sponsorship decals and emblems on his uniform. The plot is kicked off because he suddenly lost the Pepsi sponsorship and is set to lose more sponsors without any real criminals to fight. He also provides the page image.Gum Disease and Gingivitis can be a crime, that's why I use Mighty Whitey; I want my teeth to look amazing.
- Creator Cameo: Director Kinka Usher makes a brief cameo as "Moe".
- Crippling Overspecialization: The Blue Raja only works with non-bladed cutlery."I'm the ''Blue Raja! I'm not... Stab-man, I'm not Knifey Boy, I'm the Blue Raja."
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Captain Amazing's death by psycho-frakulation is gross and horrifying.
- Curbstomp Battle:
- When the Disco gang beats up the trio, they literally throw them on the ground and stomp them.
- The final fight between Casanova Frankenstein and Mr. Furious starts out with Casanova beating the crap out of him. Once he makes the mistake of triggering Furious' Unstoppable Rage, the tide turns in Furious' favor.
- 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 (neé Dirk Steel), only to give in and say his real name.
- Dark Mistress: Dr. Anabel Leek, Cassanova's psychiatrist and then lover.
- Death by Cameo: Michael Bay portrays the leader of the Frat Boys. Casanova kills them later to show how evil he can be.
- Deconstructive Parody: Of the standard super-hero world. If you have a truly successful superhero, eventually they're going to run out of villains. Also, having a superpower and heroic desire is not enough to be a superhero and it's not a glamorous life. On another level, it does this to celebrity-loving culture — what it does to the people who seek it, and the people who have it. Above all, it makes fun of both aspects.
- Decon-Recon Switch: Despite real life difficulties, the cast still becomes successful crimefighters in their own right.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "I guess tonight, the lone wolf... hunts... alone."
- Diesel Punk: Among other things, there's the Herkimer Battle Jitney.
- Disco Dan: The Disco boys are an entire Gang of Hats of them but "there's no theme at all" with their weapons.
- Distinction Without a Difference: The Bowler sneaks one in.Blue Rajah: Are you saying you inserted your father's skull inside that... ball for bowling?
Bowler: Nah. The guy at the pro shop did it.
- Disney Villain Death: Casanova is sent plummeting into his doomsday device by Mr. Furious. Though the machine itself kills him instead of the fall.
- Doesn't Like Guns:
- Apparently using a gun is hilariously gauche in the world of Mystery Men. The heroes openly mock the Disco Boys for using guns instead of using some kind of disco-themed weaponry.
- The Blue Raja has been 'crystal clear' about refusing to use guns.The Shoveler: Won't even use a knife...
- Dr. Heller only makes non-lethal weapons. Even the heroes seem dismissive of that and actually start going back to their car, until he shows off his canned tornadoes and blame-thrower.
- Sphinx is able to cut them in half with his mind, though he isn't seen cutting anything else in half.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Blue Raja's coming out as a superhero to his mother is phrased as if it was a coming out of a different sort. His mother even remarks that she was saving her mother's cutlery for his wedding, but that that day looks to be far off.
- The Dragon: Tony P, the leader of the Disco Boys, is Casanova's main muscle and closest associate. Tony P has his own Dragon, Tony C, within the Disco Boys itself.
- Dresses the Same: Two women at the superhero audition get in a fight over their matching costumes; both are dressed like Wonder Woman.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Mr. Furious throughout the film. Everyone from his boss, to the police, to his own teammates disrespect him.
- Embarrassing Superpower: "The Spleen" has Fartillery powers. While his powers can be effective, he compounds the issue by being a socially awkward and unattractive.
- Emergency Weapon: The Shoveler, sans shovel, deflects an attack with a trowel.
- Empathic Weapon: Carmine can only be successfully wielded by his daughter, who argues with him more often than not.
- Enlightenment Superpowers: The Sphinx can cut guns in half with his mind because he's a "terribly mysterious" mystic.
- Evil Genius: Casanova was able to build the Psycho-frakulator, something that was said to be impossible to build. Combines this with Mad Scientist.
- 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-frakulator 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.
- Exact Words: At Casanova Frankenstein's parole hearing, Dr. Leek assures everyone that Casanova is no more a danger to the city than she is.
- Exotic Weapon Supremacy: Everyone uses these, except for the Disco Boys, who use boring old guns. For added flavor there's a weapon designer (Tom Waits!) who specializes in these.
- To some degree, most of the characters have (or parody) the characteristics of certain trademarked super-heroes and villains.
- The Blue Raja is one of Hawkeye/Green Arrow (albeit with a different choice of weapon), and Mr. Furious wants to be one of Wolverine or the Hulk.
- Captain Amazing is a sort of pastiche of Captain America and Batman - with Clark Kent's glasses and Booster Gold's shallow attitude.
- Casanova Frankenstein is obviously strongly influenced by the Joker, although his gadgeteer tendencies invoke Lex Luthor or Dr. Doom.
- Also, the initial three members are based on the three classic members of the Justice Society of America: The Shoveler is Jay Garrick, original The Flash (the helmet, and the squeaky-clean personality), Blue Rajah is Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern (the flamboyant attire and not being dressed in the color he's named after), and Mister Furious is Ted Grant, aka Wildcat (the temper, the (albeit faux) gruff attitude).
- To some degree, most of the characters have (or parody) the characteristics of certain trademarked super-heroes and villains.
- Failure Heroes: The Team is this until their final confrontation with the Big Bad. The police mock them after a C-string villain team beat the crap out of them.
- Fartillery: "The Spleen," forevermore he who dealt it.
- Fork Fencing: The Blue Raja wields forks (not knives!)
- Freudian Trio: The 'Big Three'.
- Shoveler as Ego; level-headed balancer.
- Blue Raja as Superego; obsessed with history and social conventions.
- Mr. Furious as Id; "I am a ticking time bomb of fury."
- Fur and Loathing: The gang called "The Furriers", a bunch of femme fatales wearing leather and fur.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Heller. He makes cutting edge nonlethal weapons in his trailer.The Shoveler: Doctor, you really are a genius.
Dr. Heller: That's what the card says.
- Gang of Hats: The Disco Boys are most obvious, but all the gangs in Champion City appear to have some quirk.
- Gasshole: The Spleen (see Fartillery above).
- Glory Days: Captain Amazing hasn't had a decent battle in years.
- Gone Horribly Right: Captain Amazing had Casanova Frankenstein released simply so he could fight a capable adversary. Turns out Frankenstein was so capable, he was able to capture Amazing and go through with his doomsday plan nearly unopposed.
- Gratuitous Disco Sequence: Casanova Frankenstein's mansion and main gang all revolve around disco, which is supposedly dead.
- Groin Attack: There are a few:
- The Red-Eyes give Blue Raja an especially vicious wedgie.
- Roy inflicts one on himself while trying to start his motorcycle; he misses the lever and lands full on the gas tank, then spends the rest of the scene whimpering.
- Using the shrink-ray on the Furriers gives them, as the Bowler put it "a wedgie they won't soon forget".
- Happily Married: The Shoveler and his wife, Lucille, may feud over his heroing, but they worry because they love each other. She outright tells them that he's "a good husband and father" but not a superhero.
- Hate Sink: Captain Amazing, real name Lance Hunt, is the superhero of Champion City. Unlike the genuinely heroic Mystery Men, however, Amazing is only in it for the fame and the money and has no respect for his fans or other superheroes. Amazing crosses the line when, in an attempt to keep his sponsors from pulling their endorsements due to his fights being boring without supervillains, he tricks the insane asylum staff in releasing is nemesis Casanova Frankenstein, counting on Casanova to reek havoc. After Casanova blows up the asylum, Amazing arrives to apprehend him (showing no concern for all the inmates, guards, and asylum staff who are all dead because of him), but is captured by Casanova instead, and fails to convince Casanova to release him despite promising to help with the evil plan. Considering he spends his final moments yelling at and insulting the Mystery Men, you will probably cheer at his accidental death by psycho-fraculation.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: "Farting" sounds like a lame power but Spleen can selectively knock out everyone in a diner and is able to do it at will. In fact, it's probably the most consistently useful superpower the heroes have. Even being invisible when nobody can see you turns out to have its uses.
- 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. This leads something of an existential crisis as his friends are preparing for battle. 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.
- Heroism Addict: The impetus of the plot; Captain Amazing gets Casanova Frankenstein released so that Amazing has a real villain to fight and stops losing corporate sponsors.
- Huddle Shot: "Group hug!"
- 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.
- Ice-Cream Koan:
- Most of The Sphinx's teachings are suspiciously predictable word play.Sphinx: To learn my teachings, I must first teach you how to learn.
- The pinnacle:Furious: (trying to balance a hammer on his head) What's the point of this?
Sphinx: When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack.
- And then some:Sphinx: Your temper is very quick, my friend. But until you learn to master your rage—
Furious: Your rage will become your master? (beat) That's what you were gonna say, right?
Sphinx: ... Not necessarily.
- Most of The Sphinx's teachings are suspiciously predictable word play.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: The Bowler cites this as the reason she won't kill Tony P. Her father, however, has no such reservations.
- I Know You Know I Know: Supplies the page quote.Capt. Amazing: I knew you couldn't change.
Casanova Frankenstein: I knew you'd know that.
Capt. Amazing: Oh, I know that. And I knew you'd know I'd know you knew.
Casanova Frankenstein: But I didn't. I only knew that you'd know that I knew. Did you know that?
Capt. Amazing: . . . of course.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: When Capt. Amazing complains to his PR rep Vic about losing his sponsorships, Vic tells him that he's "a publicist, not a magician." note
- Improbable Aiming Skills: After training under the Sphinx, The Blue Raja is shown to have impeccable aiming skills that border on the superhuman.
- Improbable Weapon User:
- Insistent Terminology:
- The Blue Raja constantly corrects anyone who says that the Sphinx is mysterious — he's actually terribly mysterious.
- Mr. Furious insists on having his steak cooked very rare, then says it means "pink, not bloody". Except "very rare" means bloody and pink would be medium.
- Insulted Awake: Parodied. The team try this on Mr. Furious when he no longer feels furious, but their insults are so lame and he's become so mild-mannered due to falling in love that they can't even achieve a Minor Insult Meltdown:The Bowler: You're not well-liked. You're uh, you're abrasive and off-putting. You try and say pithy things, but your wit is a hindrance and therefore nothing is provocative. Just mixed metaphors. Now, doesn't that make you angry? Does it infuriate you?
Mr. Furious: No.
The Bowler: Well, it should. Aren't you angry? Come on, man!
The Shoveler: Your penmanship is atrocious!
The Sphinx: You dress in the manner of a male prostitute!
- Intrepid Reporter: Becky Beaner, the one covering the super hero activities, would probably be Captain Amazing's love interest in a happier world.
- Invisible Streaker: When Invisible Boy turns invisible, his (visible) clothes fall off.
- Invisible Boy actually can truly become transparent,...but only when nobody, including himself, is looking directly at him. So he's already technically "invisible" even if he doesn't become transparent. It actually does have a use, though. Turns out electronic cameras and sensors don't count as anybody looking.
- "Deathman is dead".
- It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Captain Amazing released Casanova Frankenstein from the asylum so he can have a high-profile supervillain to fight again. It backfires badly.
- It's What I Do:The Shoveler: Doctor, you are a genius.
Dr. Heller: That's what the card says.
- Also, why shovels are the shoveler's Weapon of Choice; shoveling is what he does best.
- Captain Amazing says this word for word when asked how he knew about the Red-Eyes' attack on the nursing home.
- Jive Turkey: Dropped by, of course, the disco gang.
- Jumped at the Call: The whole movie is a reconstruction. Some who jump at the call are not really cut out for heroism, and sometimes they pull it off anyway.
- Just for Pun:
- Karmic Death: This film loves 'em:
- 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 just for the good publicity of catching him again.
- King Incognito: In a deleted scene, the original trio go looking for the Sphinx at a Mexican restaurant (the idea being that ordering a certain combo meal will summon him), but eventually give up. One of the busboys later turns out to be the Sphinx (you don't see his face but rather a tattoo of The Sphinx's logo between the thumb and forefinger).
- The Law of Power Proportionate to Effort: Inverted. The harder Mr. Furious tries to get angry to invoke his rage-induced super-strength, the farther he seems to get from the genuine anger he needs. It gets bad enough that leading up to the climactic battle, he begins to doubt whether he ever actually had powers at all. Being threatened by villains doesn't make him angry because he wants to fight bad guys. Seeing the woman he loves being threatened does make him extremely angry. Turns out he does have powers . . . he just needs to let them activate naturally instead of trying to force them.
- Left the Background Music On: When some of the group enter Dr. Heller's lair in an abandoned amusement park, eerie music adds to the creepy atmosphere. Turns out Dr. Heller is playing eerie music.
- Legacy Character:
- [Carol] The Bowler; her father, Carmine the Bowler, was a fairly well known crime-fighter before her. Bad guys derisively call her "Baby Bowler" because of this.
- Also Pencilhead and Son of Pencilhead.
- Lethal Joke Weapon: Dr. Heller's specialty. He's initially written off because all of his inventions are non-lethal, but then he starts showing off what his inventions can do, including subduing foes by shrinking their clothes, causing enemies to drop everything and start bickering with each other, and even tornado grenades.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: This effectively summarizes the premise of this movie and is given a lampshade in the final battle sequence:Mr. Furious: Rage...taking over...
Casanova Frankenstein: Ya ya ya. We've heard it all before.
Mr. Furious: No, no, no. Rage really taking over!
- Likes Older Women: Heller frequents the retirement home to pick up chicks.
- Literal-Minded: When the Blue Raja asks the Bowler if she really put her father's skull in her bowling ball, she assures him she didn't. "The guy at the Pro Shop did it."
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Heller combines mad science with a Technical Pacifist attitude.
- Magical Native American: The Sphinx is a complicated, rather parodic example. He's played by a Native actor, but his powers, code name, and costume are not Native themed, he works at a Mexican restaurant and can be summoned by ordering the right combo meal, and his "wise" advice is basically nonsense.
- The Magnificent Seven Samurai: Played for Laughs, with lovable loser superheroes. The Magnificent Seven even gets a tiny shout-out.Dr. Heller (watching the team drive off for the final battle): Vaya con Dios.
- Malaproper: Mr. Furious. He doesn't appreciate being called on it.
- Malevolent Masked Men: The Red-Eyes, even including a Gas Mask Mook.
- Menstrual Menace: The PMS Avenger only works four days a month.
- Constantly by Mr. Furious.Mr. Furious: I don't need a compass to tell me which way the wind shines.
- Lampshaded by the Bowler when she's trying to rile him up:The Bowler: You constantly try to say pithy things, but your wit is a hindrance, so nothing is provocative! It's all mixed metaphors!
- Constantly by Mr. Furious.
- Mentor: The Sphinx teaches the others how to become proper super heroes.
- Milking the Giant Cow: Mr. Furious whenever he tries to invoke his Unstoppable Rage.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: The charge on Casanova Frankenstein's mansion is when the Mystery Men transition from goofballs to heroes.
- Mr. Fixit: Heller. He restores the Herkimer Battle Jitney, for starters.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Look at the Rousing Speech example below. Who knew making an Egg Salad sandwich could be so awesome?
- My Name Is Inigo Montoya: The Bowler's confrontation of Tony P, starts with introducing herself. It comes complete with You Killed My Father.
- Naked People Are Funny: Invisible Boy.Blue Raja: Two hands there, son.
- 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 is never used after that.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Captain Amazing. Which is to say that the "real" Captain Amazing is an asshole, despite his heroic reputation.
- Nice Hat: The Shoveler wears a hard hat with a spotlight.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
- Captain Amazing, in his civilian persona of Lance Hunt, decides to free Casanova potentially putting countless civilians in danger so he could have a real villain to fight, and to boost his ratings. Bad idea.
- When half the team kill Captain Amazing during a rescue attempt but 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.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Casanova threatening Furious' girlfriend ultimately snaps him out of his Heroic BSoD and allows him to finally awaken his Unstoppable Rage for real.
- Non-Indicative Name:
- The Blue Raja doesn't wear blue. And while he has a long explanation about why a white man with a fake British accent is dressing as an Indian prince — it has to do with the British occupation of India in the early 20th century — he never gets around to explaining why he throws forks, which has nothing to do with anything else he's got.
- The Spleen; an organ which acts as a blood filter and doesn't really have anything to do with flatulence.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Dr. Heller is a mad genius, but not that mad.The Spleen (of a strange gun): It's a shrinker!
The Bowler: How do you know... oh, hey! A manual!
- 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.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
- One-Book Author: Kinka Usher never directed other films again after this one. Apparently he hated working on it and preferred to go back to commercials.
- Only Sane Man: Mr. Furious is the only one who realizes 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.
- Parental Neglect: Invisible Boy tells his father "Hey dad, I'm taking three strange men into my room" when he has The Blue Raja, The Shoveler and Mr. Furious over in a testing tone. His dad doesn't even appear to notice any of it, indicating this is a long-running feature of their relationship.
- Parodied Trope: So many superhero tropes are spoofed here.
- Parting-from-Consciousness Words: Right after Captain Amazing asks whether what he just picked up is not evidence, it shoots out a cloud of pink smoke. Captain Amazing is told it'll knock him out and can only briefly protest:Casanova Frankenstein: "It's a chloroform-deploying portable enticement snare."
Captain Amazing: "... Ah, dang!"
- Performance Anxiety: Invisible Boy can only turn invisible when no one is looking at him.
- Perplexing Plurals: Captain Amazing comments to Casanova Frankenstein that they have always been each other's greatest "nemisises..nemisi..." (It's "nemeses".)
- Please Put Some Clothes On: The Bowler reacts to Invisible Boy's... "transparency" with this:"Maybe you should put some shorts on... or something... if you wanna keep fighting evil today."
- Plot Tailored to the Party: The assault on Chez Casa Casanova. From invisibility to magic bowling balls to fork throwing etc., everyone's powers are used to solve some problem or obstacle.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Carmine is apparently this: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.
- Poor Communication Kills: Literally, when Captain Amazing gives confusing instructions on how to deactivate the deathtrap he's in, causing the group to slowly devolve into Seinfeldian Conversation and eventually activate it by accident after Amazing starts screaming at them to stop being so stupid.
- Power Walk: Played straight on the way to Casanova's Mansion, 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.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Parodied constantly.
- The Blue Raja rehearses them in his room.
- 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, come up with a pretty good one when he finally gets dangerous:Mr. Furious: Someone must have ripped the "Q" section out of my dictionary, 'cause I don't know the meaning of the word "quit"!
- Precision-Guided Boomerang: The Bowler's Bowling Ball will always return to her hand when thrown. Justified due to being possessed by the soul of her dead father.
- Product Placement: Captain Amazing's costume is plastered in corporate logos.
- Proverbial Wisdom: The Sphinx, who serves as a mentor to the main characters, always speaks in proverbs and aphorisms.
- Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits: One of the definitive film examples and intentionally so.
- A guy who thinks he's the Hulk.
- A married man with a shovel.
- A Momma's Boy who throws forks.
- A shy teen with pointless invisibility powers.
- A Legacy Character looking for revenge.
- Somebody with gas.
- Their Sixth Ranger is a guy whose superpower is that he's "Terribly mysterious" (and can cut guns in half with his mind).
- Reality Ensues: Captain Amazing's rogues gallery are all retired, permanently incarcerated, or dead. Joker Immunity doesn't exist in real life.
- Reality Warping: The Psycho-frakulator seems to be a weaponized form of this. It warps its target until they die.
- Retro Universe: There are traces of this here and there, especially with the reporters' fashion. As a whole, it seems to be a weird mesh of the 40s, the 70s and then-present day late 90s.
- Rousing Speech: Perhaps the best example concerning a sandwich.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 Reject: Not just the Mystery Men; all the wannabes wear mismatched or dirty equipment.
- Running Gag:
- "Why don't you tell me?" "Why don't you tell me?"
- The heroes failing to agree on a name for their gang, leading to a subverted Title Drop at the end.
- Sarcastic Confession: As the team is trying to free Captain Amazing from Casanova's machine, the Shoveler asks him if he knows Lance Hunt. Captain Amazing admits to being him, then after a moment claims he was joking and says he always wanted to say that.
- Sassy Black Woman: Lucille, The Shoveler's wife, sasses and nags him about his superheroing.
- Scenery Porn: If you liked Blade Runner's futuristic Los Angeles, you'll love this.
- Secret Identity: Played straight with Captain Amazing and the Sphinx, but played with concerning 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.
- 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.
- Roy does a Six Million Dollar Man slow-motion jump, complete with the iconic sound-effect.
- Roy also at one point counterquips Casanova with "Don't correct me. It sickens me."
- Also, when the team is exiting the bar, they can be heard discussing the pronunciation of "Sabotage."
- The Shoveler's Rousing Speech is reminiscent of the 'band of brothers' speech. "We will show our scars with pride" indeed, making this Older Than Steam
- When Mr. Furious tries to pretend that he has an "Awesome McCool" Name in order to impress his Love Interest, he claims his name is "Phoenix Dark."
- Shovel Strike: The Shoveler shovels very well. He also has a trowel.
- Shrouded in Myth: This is literally the Sphinx's main power. (Mind you, his other power is chopping guns in half with his mind.)
- Slasher Smile: A heroic example, when Mr. Furious finally comes into his own, he has a scary rage smile.
- Skyward Scream: Mr. Furious does this when he's trying (and failing (and then succeeding)) to invoke Unstoppable Rage.
- The Smurfette Principle: Carol the Bowler is the only woman on the team. She's also the only woman in the film who's a main character, or has more than a few scenes or lines.
- 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 armor covered in sponsored ads, while supervillain Casanova Frankenstein displays a taste for multiple velvet outfits and strange gold jewelry. 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 fake-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 colorful jewel-covered fabrics (the Blue Raja) and what appears to be an elaborately painted mural of Champion City (the Invisible Boy).
- Stealth Pun: The Spleen's name makes no sense until you remember the phrase "venting one's spleen."
- Storming the Castle: The attack on Casanova's mansion and driving straight through the gate.
- Super Hero: Parodies the genre. The only ones with genuine superpowers are Spleen, Sphinx, and Invisible Boy. Bowler skirts the issue with her 'artifact of power'.
- Superhero Packing Heat: The Disco Boys, to our heroes' great amusement, use non-disco guns.
- Superheroes Wear Tights: Mostly averted, as it primarily depicts the 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).
- Super Strength: Mr. Furious, but only when his Unstoppable Rage truly kicks 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.
- The Team
- The Big Guy: The Mystery Men have a number of heavy hitters.
- Spleen's gas attack is "silent but deadly".
- Dr. Heller has an arsenal of non-lethal weaponry
- Bowler's bowling ball is like a guided missile and returns when she throws it.
- When he's truly angry, Mr. Furious is a formidable fighter.
- The Face: Invisible Boy's biggest contribution to the team is his networking ability. "I know lots of super heroes."
- The Leader: The Shoveler gives the Rousing Speech. Interestingly, when he says "Leadership, it's what we've been missing." He was looking at Mr.Furious as if disappointed that he didn't live up to this role.
- The Smart Guy:
- Dr. Heller is the Gadgeteer Genius who made their gear and transport.
- The Blue Raja has vast array of specialized forks, a well-researched back story and is a rather knowledgeable history buff.
- Mentor Archetype: The Sphinx trained them all.
- The Big Guy: The Mystery Men have a number of heavy hitters.
- That Poor Cat: Happens while The Blue Raja is using a dartboard for target practice.
- This Is Gonna Suck: The Famous Last Words of Captain Amazing are a grousing "Uh-oh, wrong switch."
- 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 starts arguments).
- 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.
- Title Drop: See Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering??, above, where the reporter says "these mystery men".
- Toilet Humor: A skunk humping the leg of a fart-powered superhero, just to name one example.
- Token Minority: Invisible Boy and The Sphinx are the only people of color on the team. The Bowler is the only woman among them.
- Took a Level in Badass: Everyone, after meeting The Sphinx. This was the point of finding him.
- Tornado Move: Dr. Heller has invented a "Tornado in a Can". He uses one to get the heroes' attention when they have decided he was a crackpot and go to leave.
- Trick Bomb: A tornado in a can.
- Truth in Television: Shovel fighting was taught to most infantry through the end of World War II. The reasoning was that infantry were often responsible for digging their own foxholes, and their enemies were unlikely to honor a call of "Time out!" while they went to fetch their gun or bayonet.
- TV Never Lies: Parodied during a conversation between Mr. Furious and Monica the waitress:Mr. Furious: I'll have a steak, please, very rare. That means pink, not bloody. And can I get some ice? I had a little mishap defending justice over at the nursing home.
Monica: I thought I heard on TV that that was Captain Amazing.
Mr. Furious: Ooh! Let's all be good automaton droids and believe everything we see on TV!
Monica: I'll just go place your order now...
- Unstoppable Rage: This is supposed to be Mr. Furious' power but he's defeated by stress balls. It finally works in the end.Mr. Furious: That little sucker just saved your life.
- Victory Is Boring: And unprofitable. 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.
- Vigilante Militia: The Mystery Men are composed of three Z-list superheroes: Mister Furious, Blue Raja and The Shoveler. When Captain Amazing gets taken out by The Villain, these three recruit The Bowler, Invisible Boy and The Spleen to the cause of taking down Casanova Frankenstein.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Casanova Frankenstein is a very serious and menacing villain in an otherwise comedic film.
- 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:
- Weaponized Ball: The Bowler uses a bowling ball possessed by the spirit of her father (the original Bowler) as a weapon.
- What a Piece of Junk: The Herkimer Battle Jitney. Roy explains to his boss earlier in the film (because he works at the junkyard the Jitney is in) that the thing is armored to the point that a bomb can't damage it and she insists that he must tear it apart with a piddly crowbar. When Roy brings up the Jitney in the third act Heller tells him how great it is, and it demonstrates why after being restored at the climax.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Dr. Annabelle Leek joins Casanova as his evil concubine, then vanishes without a trace halfway through the movie. DVD supplemental materials say there were originally some very funny bits with her that got cut out. According to the script on IMDB, she angrily tries to shoot Casanova when he's having an I Have You Now, My Pretty moment with Monica, accusing him of living up to his name as The Casanova. Casanova turns on the charm, convincing Anabel to drop the gun, then tells her You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and tosses her out a window to her death. The heroes when scaling the building later see her fall and hear her inevitable thud.
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Everybody on the team, which is central to the premise but special mention goes to Invisible Boy who can only turn invisible when nobody is looking; this is only useful when trying to avoid electronic detection in a room where everybody is on his side and agrees not to look at him (he even has to close his eyes, since it also doesn't work when he's looking at himself).
- Why Don't You Marry It?: The Bowler says this to The Shoveler about Mr. Furious, which turns into an Argument of Contradictions.
- Wicked Cultured: Casanova Frankenstein's mansion and sense of fashion, although bizarrely and brilliantly mixed with Everything's Funkier With Disco.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: Furious has a very short one that doubles as Pre Ass Kicking One Liner when His Unstoppable Rage is finally unleashed, allowing him to beat the stuffing out of Casanova Frankenstein.
- You Can See Me?: Unfortunately, Invisible Boy, yes. We can. EVERYTHING, too.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the climax, the Big Bad kills a group of Mooks expressly to demonstrate to the heroes that, unlike them, he can sacrifice his allies if he has to, or, y'know, if he feels like it.
- You Killed My Father: The Bowler. Downplayed by the fact it's her dead father who ultimately avenges himself.
- Zeppelins from Another World: A few can be seen floating over Champion City.