Mystery Men | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mystery Men 

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In this action comedy based on Bob Burden's comic books, Ben Stiller nearly steals the show as a low-profile superhero whose greatest weapon is his temper--which occasionally gives him the power to do minor property damage or slightly hurt bad guys but usually just prevents him from getting dates. But he has stiff competition from his cohorts, including Hank Azaria, who's armed with pounds of flatware and a heavy accent; William H. Macy, whose wife is getting tired of him leaving the house each day carrying the shovel he uses to fight crime; and Janeane Garofalo, whose aggression is fueled by unresolved issues with her dad. This slapstick-effects vehicle depends on poker-faced performances, production design that enhances the story partly because it doesn't have to compensate for it, and a premise that provides seemingly inexhaustible opportunities for pratfalls and clever lines. The characters have been designed to make fun of themselves, disguising the craft of writer Neil Cuthbert and director Kinka Usher in getting us to laugh at them. With Kel Mitchell, Paul Reubens, Greg Kinnear, Geoffrey Rush, Claire Forlani, Wes Studi, and Tom Waits. Bricktown Square, Burnham Plaza, Chatham 14, Ford City, Golf Glen, Lake, Lawndale, Lincoln Village, Old Orchard, 600 N. Michigan, 62nd & Western, Webster Place. --Lisa Alspector

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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