Mystery Men (PG)122 mins ,t
Although it's a spoof, Mystery Men is more knowing about the conventions of American comic book superheroes than the Batman and Superman films, or most of the other, generally flawed, comic adaptations. Just as a number of seminal graphic novels — The Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns - have exploded the superhero myth, Mystery Men does likewise, using humour.
Caped crimefighter Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) has cleaned up Champion City - a retro-futuristic metropolis of the kind seen in the Batman films and Japanese anime movies — leaving him with nothing to occupy his time other than pulling lame PR stunts to satisfy his sponsors, whose logos swamp his costume. Missing the battles with his old enemies, the Captain hits on a plan to free his most dastardly nemesis, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) from his lunatic asylum prison. But Frankenstein isn’t willing to relive old times and promptly kidnaps the Captain and makes plans to destroy Champion City.
This leaves the city’s future in the hands of the Mystery Men, a group of underachiever heroes: The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria), a mommie's boy who throws
East meets West: Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat in Anna And The King
Superhero spoof: Mystery Men
cutlery without deadly precision, The Shoveler (William H. Macy), a blue collar worker who wields a big spade and lives with his family in the suburbs, and the superbly-monikered Mr Furious (Ben Stiller), who’s ‘super’ power is the ability to get really, really angry . . . and that's it. ‘We're not people's favourite heroes, we're the other guys,’ says The Shoveler. And they round up more pathetically powered putz's: the fantastically flatulent Spleen (Paul Reubens), Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), who everyone can see, the infuriatingly mysterious Sphinx (Wes Studi) and The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), who carries her father’s skull around in a bowling ball and argues with it.
The humour often descends into banality, of the kind Mel Brooks mastered in his early, funny films. The Spleen’s ongoing fart gag, for example, is pure Blazing Saddles. But beneath such adolescent foolings there’s clever spoof and satire at play that’s largely down to Mystery Men's origins in Bob Burden's Dark Horse Comic, Flaming Carrot. Commercials director Kinka Usher provides the appropriate polish and the superb cast is rounded out by Tom Waits's eccentric inventor, Lena Olin’s psychiatrist and Eddie lzzard's sidekick to Frankenstein. Stoopid, but in a good way. (Miles Fielder) I General release from Sun 26 Dec.
’No, for where the songs should be, there shall be ponderous, expenswe visual set-pieces featuring exotic head- dresses and cute children.’
’Shall these break up the action in an annoying manner and make it flagrantly obvious that this is a stage play out of its element?’
’No, no, no, certainly not.’
’And shall the same inappropriate staginess result in a frustrating distance from the characters, who shall consequently remain pantomime archetypes and fail to convrnce as individuals, deSpite my little tense worried frown?’
’No, no. That definitely won’t happen!
’And won’t the whole "ooh, isn’t
Anna And The King (12) 151 mins air at
‘Dainrnit, Unstiupulous Hollywood Agent, I want another Oscar How should I pi'oteed7'
'lvliss Foster, I’ve been studying the market, and I think you should star in something overlong and vaguely worthy, perhaps an improbable modern remake of an established classic Have strong, noble cheekbones. Wear a crinoline Do an English accent. May I suggest a new version of The K/ng And l, that rousing tale of
colonialism and sexual repression, co- starring Chow Yuri Fat?’
‘The Hong Kong guy? But isn’t he notoriously bad at straight acting?’
’Yes. You Will look even better beside him. We would advise you to do your little tense worried frown a lot, to Signrfy emotion.’
‘Certarnly, and my accent shall be overwrought in the extreme, as that is how Meryl Streep got where she is today. But won’t the whole thing turn out somewhat flat and lame, wrthout those marvellous Rodgers and
closed-mindedness horrid, let’s teach the world to sing, yet retain our firm grasp on our own national characteristics, and not engage in naughty miscegenation” message look pathetically trite and old-fashioned?’
’50 it’s not a boring, safe, retro- Hollywood epic that walks backwards into the new century with its eyes fixed firmly on the past? You’re sure? OK. Fetch me my parasol. We’re going to Siam.’ (Hannah McGill)
I General release from Fri 77 Dec.
new releases FILM
The Legend Of 1900 (15) 125 mins t v. x
A baby is boil: and anii‘tioneii aboard the trar‘saf antit inter Virginian on the f"st (lir‘, et the Nut century It is a fairytale tietii'ii‘ "o to .i
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the ship, neter settii‘. I When an attident orphans lwn again, he fates tieirno lt".:.ll‘t“i ti SOCIetv, but an (‘thilttllll'lti". tait l" for piano playing imi‘ J!) i spends the :(ft‘K QHIOTIdIHIlH] folks traveli'riil l‘etvmeri Europe and /\lli(‘ll\<l, st ll unit'rmt stepping off the ship
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including one \“.’fit‘lt' Wilt? wl musician Max tale t'xt- bane. iif’ .r piano during a storm and flt' about
the ship while rifritrvir; lltl’t' (it"‘i'if
music There rs a l()\t‘ :nte'lurle .‘.l‘ere
the mere ‘sltlflt of a lieaiitz‘-..i \,.>i.i~a (lll inspires 1900 to make ri'. roost heartfelt llillSl(, and a ti)l"llt’i tron Wltfl jd// ()(‘ltltlS Jelly Rtiil erilt l'. i’w
man wno invented ,a./'/' no le,‘ .'.“ir lr 1900 (a white boy \'.iio nan new: iuarl a lessonl Wins Suspension or disbewa is the only way to buy fllt' .z'l-ort- (lr‘iif and that, in turn, (reperios 'llltl?‘ ‘l e film striking a chord or w'no‘ioiial truthfulness \‘Jhl(lt (f(‘fl(“s our of reasoning
That The legend Of I900 doe. stnle that chord is debatable lhe til'stil‘t,‘ of Roth as 1900 doesn't work beeiuse lie is tOO worldly, and Pr'urt’. laylor Vrrir e outshines him as Max Moreover, tltt‘lr‘ never seems to be a dear reason for ll‘i to believe in the point of 1900 the figure of the moment us so easily a Cliche, and in this blur the surroiirirlinri cultural and emotional detail s unfocused to the point of (are't-ssness (Hannah Fries) I Selected release from / n l/ [M
Music maestro: Tim Roth in The Legend Of 1900
' ' STAR RATINGS
it t * t w Unmissable
* ir * it Very ood
* 1: 1r Wort a shot
i * Below average
it You've been warned
l8 Nov—2 Dec 1999 THE LIST 29