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Directed by Kinka Usher
USA 1999

 

Anyone familiar with the brilliant 'Flaming Carrot' comic books may be aware of 'Mystery Men'. Panned by film critics its celluloid transformation obviously fell upon deaf ears. Don't heed them. They are wrong. Very, very wrong.

 

We have been telling stories with pictures since the dawn of man and a natural elevation to the fantastical seems only... appropriate. Film is just another graphic extension. Like many 'superhero'-based creations 'Mystery Men' goes to extreme lengths to parody the very genre it evolves from. This process, kind of, breaks down the third wall acceptable to many who refuse to suspend their disbelief. The concept behind superhero-dom can have multi-dimensions - persuaded as realistic (Spiderman, X-Men, Unbreakable) or mocking lampoon (The Incredibles), for those growing up with this form of fantasy element it became an eventual springboard to heavier literature - and, like much of our youth, it is rare if it entirely leaves us when we mature.

In Kinka Usher's 'Mystery Men' we are introduced to some of the lesser know brand of caped crusader - in this universe we have Captain Amazing (Greg Kinear), Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious (who's power, it seems is to just get really, really mad) - the wonderfully deadpan William H. Macy as the oddly armored 'Shoveler' - Hank Azaria plays the silverware-tossing 'Blue Raja' - the always hilariously cold Janeane Garofalo, existing on the legacy of her character's father (NOTE: who has the same first name - Carmine - as her real father!), is 'The Bowler' - Paul Reubens, with a sort of surprise comeback, is 'The Spleen'. Plus the only-when-nobody's-looking 'Invisible Boy', there philosophical leader 'Sphinx', dastardly villains like The Disco Boys or Geoffrey Rush as Casanova Frankenstein - it all seems perfectly complete. Don't you agree?

 

I'll admit that my first viewing the creative depth behind 'Mystery Men' alluded me. Only when I decided to give it a second spin did it render stomach-grabbing guffaws - or maybe my expectations weren't as exceptionally high. I kept trying to isolate why it was so darn amusing - was it the quintessential everyman Ben Stiller?, stone-faced William Macy?, the script?, the plot? - I couldn't be 100% sure. Regardless, it worked... like a charm... on me. I'll add the caveat that this is definitely not for everyone - the humor can be a bit ribald at times. But I wouldn't readily dismiss it simply because journalists like Roger Ebert gave it 2/4 - remember he also gave The Cell 4/4. I'm afraid the excessive negativism squashed any hopes of a sequel - which is very disappointing indeed. If you'd like some depth - how about Casanova Frankenstein's castle? - right our of Antonioni Gaudi's playbook. When you are in the mood - 'Mystery Men' can definitely hit the spot - not like a choice sirloin, but more like a diner's blue-plate special... yeah, that's it. out of        

Gary W. Tooze

 

  Posters

Theatrical Release: July 22nd, 1999

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Comparison:

Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Universal - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

Box Cover

Distribution Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC Universal Studios - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:01:20  2:01:26.112 
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.58 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 37,782,726,958 bytes

Feature: 33,289,961,472 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.85 Mbps

Codec: VC-1 Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) DTS-HD Master Audio English 2721 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2721 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio French 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB / Dolby Surround
Subtitles English, None English (SDH), Spanish, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Universal Studios

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.78i:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by: director Kinka Usher
• Spotlight on Location
• Deleted Scenes
• Origin of the original Mystery Men comic book characters
• Universal Soundtrack Presentation & Music Highlights & Universal Showcase
• DVD-ROM Features

DVD Release Date: January 11th, 2000

Keep Case inside cardboard slipcase
Chapters: 18

Release Information:
Studio: Universal Studios

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85i:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 37,782,726,958 bytes

Feature: 33,289,961,472 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.85 Mbps

Codec: VC-1 Video

Edition Details:

• Commentary by: director Kinka Usher
• Spotlight on Location - Making of (17:40)
• Deleted Scenes (19:40)
• Trailer (2:26)
• My Scenes capable

Blu-ray Release Date: July 24th, 2012
Standard
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 18

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray (July 2012): Firstly, because of the intrusive timeline feature I wasn't able to get exact frame matches on all captures. Surprisingly, this Universal Blu-ray is encoded with VC-1 - which we don't often see anymore as most 1080P transfer use AVC. Being such a dark film, it is hard to notice strong visual improvement over the capable SD-DVD, but on a large screen system - it becomes more evident. The Blu-ray is transferred in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (DVD was 1.78) and shows a shade more information in the frame. It is marginally brighter with more layered contrast. Colors are tighter but don't stray far from the DVD-exported scheme. There is some depth in the day-lit, outdoor, sequences (interviewing perspective team members). It is dual-layered with a high bitrate and I don't discount some digitization but it's not enough to quibble over.

Universal supply a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track at 2721 kbps. It has some buoyancy but there isn't a plethora of aggressive separations. What effects are exported to the rear speakers are often subtle and atmospheric. There is, however, a ton of music in the film - thanks to 'The Disco Boys' characters we get snippets of plenty of that genre including The Trammps's "Disco Inferno", A Taste of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie", Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell", The Bee Gees's "Night Fever", Chic's "Le Freak", KC & The Sunshine Band's "That's the Way (I Like It)", Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven" - also fittingly is The B-52's "Planet Claire" and plenty more sounding very impressive in lossless - even if they are only short segments of the songs. There are optional subtitles on the Region FREE Blu-ray disc.

In regards to extras we keep the light director commentary, the amusing deleted scenes and the 'making of...' - lose the 'origins' from the DVD but gain an HD trailer. The Blu-ray is also 'My Scenes' capable.

I love this film every time I see it. I'll bet I watch it every 6-months or so. Great cast and writing - a super fun film that I wouldn't pass up in 1080P. Recommended - especially at this reasonable price.

***

ON THE DVD: The first noted detail of the image is that it is exceptionally dark, but I always prefer this as far more natural look than contrast boosted transfers. This is obviously how the film looked theatrically and it definitely suits the style of the detailed art production. Colors are intentionally on the dull side but sharpness is there and overall the quality is very consistent.

The supplements are very good - the director commentary shares many production details and some frank anecdotes. There is a 'Spotlight on Location' featurette and about 7 minutes of deleted scenes.

Overall this is a well above-average DVD at a good price. The film is very addictive and charming in its own juvenile way. Although it won't make our Essentials DVDs listing - we still recommend it for some great fun. 

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC Universal Studios - Region FREE - Blu-ray




 

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