WTF Happened to Mystery Men (1999)?

In 1999, Ben Stiller got to play a superhero. Well, kind of. You see, he was one of the leads in Universal’s big-budget superhero comedy Mystery Men. The first (and last) movie directed by noted commercial director Kinka Usher, the film landed with a thud in the summer of 1999, topping out at $33 million worldwide on a $68 million budget. Based on an obscure comic, Mystery Men always seemed like a risky bet at the box office, with star Ben Stiller, who plays Mr. Furious, having only recently begun to show any box office mettle thanks to There’s Something About Mary. He was surrounded by an ace cast of character actors, including Janeane Garofalo, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) and Greg Kinnear. Still, none of them were household names at this point.

Plagued by behind-the-scenes drama, with Stiller reportedly trying to quit after an on-set argument with Kinnear and Usher swearing off movie-making permanently, Mystery Men is little remembered now. Yet, the film has a tiny cult of fans who think it’s an underrated gem, with Geoffrey Rush a particular favorite as the villain Casanova Frankenstein. It also features a cameo by none other than Michael Bay. So is this obscure entry into Stiller’s filmography best forgotten? After all, Stiller now says he’d be open to a sequel. We dig into it in this week’s episode of WTF Happened to this Movie?

This episode of WTF Happened to this Movie is written by Brad Hamerly, narrated by Mathew Plale, edited by Juan Jimenez, and produced by Ben Cantler. Watch previous episodes below and let us know if you think Mystery Men is gem or best forgotten. 

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.