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Movie Review

With crime in Champion City at an all-time low, egocentric defender of justice Captain Amazing is losing his edge—as well as some corporate sponsors. So he unleashes an old nemesis on society simply to create more demand for his Amazing brand of heroism. It backfires. When the diabolical supervillain gains the upper hand, a bickering band of wannabe crime fighters must save the day.

The action/comedy Mystery Men (PG-13) is an affectionate send-up of the superhero genre. It skewers comic book clichés while making do-gooders out of seven sincere, blue-collar citizens with dubious talents ranging from bowling and fork-throwing to savage flatulence.

Indeed, the humor gets a bit crude at times, but for a PG-13 comedy, Mystery Men exercises surprising restraint. In fact, only four profanities pop up in the entire film (not counting two uses of "fork" in expressions that typically employ a different f-word). And while there's a considerable amount of superhero-style street violence (hand- to-hand combat, assaults with pipes and chains, gunfire from the bad guys), the Mystery Men are committed to non-lethal means of subduing their foes. This quirky movie also values sacrifice, courage, teamwork, supportive families and the heroism of the common man.

But don't give teens a green light just yet. A crazed megalomaniac has gizmos that either petrify or melt flesh (grisly moments). Other caveats involve brief nudity, mixed messages about alcohol, and a supernaturally powered bowling ball that contains a restless human skull. Social conscience and hip commentary aside, Mystery Men deserves only modest applause.

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Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Janeane Garofalo, Greg Kinnear, Hank Azaria, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Reubens


Kinka Usher ( )


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Bob Smithouser

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