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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.

Posters

Theatrical Release: July 22nd, 1999

Reviews                                                                                                       More Reviews                                                                                       DVD Reviews

 

Comparison:

Universal - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

 

 

  

Bonus Captures:

Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:01:20          2:01:26.112  2:01:17.311 
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 Vide

1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,910,973,697 bytes

Feature: 37,928,497,152 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

Bitrate Universal Blu-ray:

Bitrate 88 Films 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

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4223 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4223 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps

Subtitles English, None English (SDH), Spanish, None English, 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

Release Information:
Studio:
88 Films

 

1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,910,973,697 bytes

Feature: 37,928,497,152 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

Audio Commentary by Director Kinka Usher
We're The Other Guys!: The Making of "Mystery Men" with Director Kinka Usher (23:35)
I'm A Superhero, Mother!: The Costumes of "Mystery Men" with Designer Marilyn Vance (11:57)
Inside Champion City!: The Effects of "Mystery Men" with Visual Effects Supervisor Todd Tucker (9:26)
Disco Is Life!: The Score(s) of "Mystery Men" with Film Music Historian Daniel Schweiger (8:32)
[Archive] Spotlight on Location - Making Of Featurette (17:40)
Deleted Scenes (19:42)
Theatrical Trailer (2:19)
[Limited Edition Matte Slipcase]
[Limited Edition Collector's Booklet by James Oliver with extensive behind the scenes photographs]


Blu-ray Release Date:
May 18th, 2020
Transparent Blu-ray Case inside cardboard sleeve

Chapters 12

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: 88 Films (UK) Blu-ray (June 2020): 88 Films have transferred Kinka Usher's delightful Mystery Men to Region 'B' Blu-ray. The image advances over the VC-1 encoded Universal Blu-ray, which fans often felt was underwhelming with a waxy softness. Here, on a dual-layered disc with a higher max'ed out bitrate and AVC encode the image is crisper, has better layered contrast, richer colors and looks appealing in-motion. It's a nice upgrade from the original Blu-ray and fans will appreciate it's more film-like qualities. 

NOTE: We have added 68 more large resolution Blu-ray captures (in lossless PNG format) for DVDBeaver Patrons HERE

On their Blu-ray, 88 Films use a more robust DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track (24-bit) in the original English language. It is another advancement in the film's audio - exporting deeper bass - notable in the score by Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare in Love, Birthday Girl, Polisse, Prime Suspect) plus 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" when Paul Reubens character 'Spleen' is introduced. There is more sounding very impressive in lossless - even if they are only short samplings of the songs. It sounds quite effective. Universal offer optional English subtitles on their Region 'B'-locked Blu-ray.

The 88 Films Blu-ray has the Kinka Usher commentary, deleted scenes and On Location featurette also found on the DVD and 2012 Blu-ray. But there are also four other video pieces as supplements on the 88 Films release; We're The Other Guys!: The Making of "Mystery Men" with Director Kinka Usher running 23-minutes, I'm A Superhero, Mother!: The Costumes of "Mystery Men" with designer Marilyn Vance for a dozen minutes discussing the superhero costuming. Inside Champion City!: The Effects of "Mystery Men" spens 10-minutes with visual effects supervisor Todd Tucker and Disco Is Life!: The Score(s) of "Mystery Men" is with film music historian Daniel Schweiger for 8.5 minutes. The Blu-ray package has a limited edition collector's booklet by James Oliver with extensive behind the scenes photographs and an nice LE matte slipcase. 

Mystery Men is still a formidable comedy gem - hard to believe it is 20-years old now. We all hoped for a sequel but I am still very pleased to revisit this every once in a while. It has great dialogue and memorable performances from Janeane Garofalo, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, Geoffrey Rush and many others. The 88 Films Blu-ray is the one to own winning on all fronts - a/v and extras. Fans should have this one in their digital library.

Gary Tooze

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 an uncomfortable softness. 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 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

 


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

 

88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

More full resolution (1920 X 1080) Blu-ray Captures for DVDBeaver Patreon Supporters HERE

 

 

 
Box Cover

 

 

  

Bonus Captures:

Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray


 


 

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Gary Tooze

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