The Master Of Disguise

2002, Movie, PG, 97 mins

Review

MASTER OF DISGUISE, THE
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Painfully unfunny and misguided to boot: Star and co-writer Dana Carvey, himself the father of two, claimed he wanted to make a movie that children and adults could enjoy together. Did he imagine parents and kids united by the movie's grotesque, ongoing sight gag predicated on the sexual appeal of women with colossal cabooses? Grown-ups and small fries tittering in harmony as Carvey's character looks an hors d'oeuvres-bearing waiter in the eye and says, "Do you have a small wiener and tiny nuts?" The wacky goings on revolve around the hilariously named Pistachio Disguisey (Carvey), an idiot man-child in the Jerry Lewis mold descended from a long line of "masters of disguise." The Disguisey family has for generations handed down the secret of changing one's appearance so thoroughly that a man can pass himself off as anyone or anything, from Bo Derek to a giant cherry pie (though apparently not the fire hydrant featured prominently in the film's advertising). But Pistachio's father, Fabbrizio (James Brolin), disenchanted by peripatetic do-gooding, vowed that his son would have a normal life. Fabbrizio opened an Italian restaurant where Pistachio contentedly waits tables, but the Disguisey genes will not be denied. Pistachio's compulsive urge to mimic others often lands him in hot water, and when Fabbrizzio and his wife (Edie McClurg) are kidnapped, Pistachio's estranged grandfather (Harold Gould) appears to clue Pistachio into his legacy. Grandpa teaches his grandson the tricks of the trade, hires a comely sidekick named Jennifer (Jennifer Esposito), and sends Pistachio off to find his parents. The trail leads to nefarious businessman Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner), who's settling an old grudge by forcing Fabbrizio to steal such treasures as the Liberty Bell and the Mona Lisa, which he plans to auction off online. Carvey's schtick leans heavily towards "funny" accents, racial stereotypes (his imitation of an Indian fakir is genuinely offensive) and sheer ridiculousness. He spends one scene dressed as a turtle man — the better to infiltrate a swanky gentlemen's establishment called the Turtle Club — and another in a body suit covered with cherries. On other occasions he seems to be imitating actors like Al Pacino and David Niven, but it's hard to be sure. Pointless cameo appearances by the likes of wrestler-turned-politician Jesse Ventura and pop tart Jessica Simpson do nothing to increase the laugh quotient. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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