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The Forgotten Ben Stiller Superhero Movie That's Heating Up On Netflix

Good news is a hard thing to come by. The best possible news? That's something that you only ever get to find out about once. Steel yourself. Look around the room. Live in this moment, because it's something that you're going to remember for the rest of your life.

Mystery Men is streaming on Netflix.

If you're not familiar, 1999's Mystery Men was at least a decade ahead of its time. If it had come out in the age of hipsters and a new Marvel production every two months, its bizarre comedy stylings might not have bombed so hard at the box office. The way things turned out, the film from first-time director Kinka Usher stumbled out of the gate, earning back roughly half of its $68 million budget. The critical consensus: It was weird.

And you know what? They were right. More than 20 years later, Mystery Men is still a collection of fisheye surrealism, subtle digs at William Shatner, and fart jokes. In the wake of the era's biggest superhero movies — Batman and Robin, Spawn, and over-the-top camp fests — it's also one of the most on-the-nose love letters to a genre that had become a mire of product placement and toy commercials. Let's dive into this forgotten comedy and learn why it's worth the price of your Netflix subscription.

Mystery Men deconstructs superheroes

The setup: Champion City, a neo-noir metropolis that shares its aesthetic (and several sets) with Joel Schumacher's Gotham, is defended by Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) — maybe too well, it turns out. Because all of his greatest foes are behind bars or, in the case of Death Man, dead, the Captain hasn't experienced a high-profile scuffle in a while, and sponsors are starting to pull out. Things are looking bad. He's even lost his Pepsi endorsement.

Therefore, Amazing arranges for one of his biggest enemies to be freed, never considering that he might not be up to the task of putting his archrival back in prison. With humanity's greatest protector out of action, the heroics are left to the farm team: amateur D-listers with zero tallies in the W column, cobbled together by convenience and, in one case, a man's refusal to leave strangers alone at a diner.

The result is an infinitely quotable and — we can't stress this enough — extremely weird action comedy, complete with psychofraculation and a Tom Waits character who makes a portion of his living renting chickens to interested parties.

Mystery Men's new home means new fans

The film's heroes? Unimpeachable. William H. Macy plays The Shoveler, a middle-aged man who shovels well — shovels very well. Hank Azaria is the Blue Raja, Master of Silverware, whose name makes perfect sense if you know your history. Ben Stiller's Mister Furious may or may not be empowered by his endless rage, and Kel Mitchell's Invisible Boy might turn invisible, but it's hard to know for sure. Janeane Garofalo, to the best of anyone's knowledge, plays herself but with her father's sentient skull preserved in a bowling ball. Paul Reubens plays The Spleen, who should have been integrated into the MCU about 11 movies ago.

Meanwhile, at the villains' table, Geoffrey Rush chews more than his daily allotment of scenery calories as Casanova Frankenstein, a disco monster whose ill-advised return to Champion City spells chaos. With the help of his henchmen, Tony C. and Tony P. (Prakazrel Michel and Eddie Izzard), he assembles a who's who of antagonists that includes the Goodie Mob, portraying the villainous Not So Goodie Mob, and Michael Bay. Seriously.

Mystery Men is a unique film, and its troubled production ended the filmmaking career of director Kinka Usher. In the age of streaming services giving cult classics a second shot, it's 100% worth checking out, if only for the slim hope that someone will try to make a follow-up. Watch it for the performances, or the Gilliamesque cinematography, or the way that Reubens sings "Hello, Dolly" with a lateral lisp. Most of all, watch it for a warm reminder of a time when movies could just play "All Star" by Smash Mouth and call it an ending.