Something In The Air
A semi-autobiographical drama from director Olivier Assayas set in 1970s Paris
The superhero movie - specifically the Batman movies - is spoofed to good effect in this enjoyable, thoroughly under-rated comedy starring Ben Stiller and a fine cast
Welcome to Mystert Men, the film in which Ben Stiller's plays the ultimate young man and Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush hams it up quite fantastically as imprisoned criminal mastermind, Casanova Frankenstein.
In truth, Frankestein isn't imprisioned for very long. Upset at the lack of crime in Champion City, freedom defender Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) decides to free the evil one to give him something to do. Frankenstein repays this kindness by promptly capturing Amazing, leaving the city's fate in the hands - or so they imagine - of a trio of useless would-be superheroes, Ben Stiller's Mr Furious ("I am a ticking time bomb of fury" he says, but this Dr Banner never goes Hulk), Hank Azaria's Blue Raja ("Master of cutlery") and William H Macy's The Shovellor ("God's given me a gift. I shovel well. I shovel very well.").
As Frankenstein is aided by his henchmen the Disco Boys (Eddie Izzard and Fugee Pras) and their gang, our trio boost their numbers by auditioning other crime-fighters. The final squad includes Janeane Garofalo's The Bowler (who carries her dad's skull in a magical bowling ball), Paul Reubens' The Spleen ("Pull my finger!". Yup, he has the power of flatulence), Kel Mitchell's Invisible Boy ("I can only become invisible when people aren't watching") and Wes Studi's The Sphinx (who does actaully seem to have some sort of power, but mostly just utters cryptic 'wisdom': "To learn my teachings, I must first teach you how to learn." or "He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions.").
These second-rate, somewhat deluded blue collar crimefighters ("We're not your classic heros. We're the other guys.") take on Frankenstein. When they accidentally kill Amazing in the process, it prompts something of a crisis of faith, especially for Furious. But armed with some natty gizmos from mad inventor Dr Heller (Tom Waits; "All my weapons are non-lethal") they attack again. Bless 'em.
Scripter Neil Cuthbert keeps it the dynamic of the large ensemble pretty clear, with the basic premise of the useless little guys determined to achieve something. Cuthbert, a former Stiller collarborator, piles on the humour with his characterisation of these seeming losers. Mr Furious gets to spout ridiculous nonsense aphorisms ("I'm a Pantera's box you do not wanna open!"); The Shoveller - Macy at his hang-dog best - returns home everynight to hang up his shovel and hardhat and get haranged by his long-suffering wife; Garofolo is excellent as ever, her Bowler bickering not only with Furious but with her dad's ghost. It's a great cast. Even the shamed Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) is endearingly pathetic.
Although the special effects get a little bit too busy at times - much like those in the Batman films - they're of a high quality. The combination of the film's great look, excellent cast and fun scripting makes it a thoroughly enjoyable experience for fans of comic-books and comic-book movies.
Hugely entertaining - especially for those with a thing for superheroes.
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