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Master Of Disguise (PG)
Columbia Pictures
Official Site
Director:Perry Andelin Blake
Producers:Sid Ganis, Alex Siskin, Barry Bernardi, Todd Garner
Written by:Dana Carvey and Harris Goldberg
Cast:Dana Carvey, James Brolin, Harold Gould, Brent Spiner, Jennifer Esposito

Rating: out of 5

If Hell has a Blockbuster, I bet the only title it carries is Master of Disguise. The Horned One himself could not invent a punishment more infernal than treating his tormented tenants to repeated viewings of Dana Carvey's latest cinematic catastrophe, a film so wretched even the Country Bears regard it with disdain.

In the movie, Carvey—who at this rate, will soon be disguising himself as the Hollywood Square due south of Bruce Vilanch—plays Pistachio Disguisey, a character supposedly of Italian origin, though most likely born somewhere on the border between irritating and retarded.

I think the character might be involved in a plot of some kind, most of it effectively wiped from my memory and replaced by flashbacks of intense annoyance. What I do recall is that Pistachio has a "gift" for mimicry, a genetic trait passed down to him by a long line of Disguiseys, otherwise known as Masters of Disguise. When his father, Fabrizio (Brolin, proving there are indeed far worse things than being married to Barbra Streisand) is kidnapped, Pistachio learns the truth about his heritage from his grandfather (Gould), a character who apparently does not warrant an actual name.

Grandfather tutors Pistachio in the trade of transformation, wisely entrusting the life of his only son to a complete imbecile. However, realizing that Pistachio might want to embarrass someone other than just himself, Grandfather hires Jennifer Esposito to foolishly encourage his grandson's multiple personality disorder. Grandfather then makes a very smart move, excusing himself from the majority of the movie, and allowing the two potential lovebirds to discover the kidnapper's identity.

The man in question is Devlin Bowman (Spiner), a criminal mastermind who plans to use Fabrizio's talents to pilfer the world’s most precious treasures (in a scene highlighting all that is wrong with both democracy and movie cameos, Fabrizio resides within the skin of Governor Jesse Ventura in an attempt to steal the Liberty Bell). In the time-honored tradition of cartoonish supervillains, Bowman's only other hobby is occasional cackling, a habit that exposes his rather mean flatulence problem, although it might just be the sound of Spiner's career slowly deflating.

Pistachio uses one disguise after another to try to break into Bowman's lair, even camouflaging himself as a cow paddy at one point—funny, since the movie itself is disguised as a piece of shit. By some miracle, Pistachio actually manages to save his father, a happy ending by traditional movie standards, though I suspect the audience will be rooting for the projector to catch on fire.

Of course, the story is just an excuse for Carvey to break into his many different characters, which should be a good thing—after all, the comic has proved himself a master of the up-to-the-minute impersonation, on both “Saturday Night Live” and in his stand-up routines. There is, however, a difference between mimicking Ross Perot and transforming into a man-sized turtle, the distinction residing in relevance and entertainment value. In other words, what's the point?

However, there is a much more important question to ask oneself, especially if you have had the misfortune of seeing the film's trailer: Is Turtle Guy actually the personification of all things evil, as he appears to be? Unfortunately, the excruciating tortoise scene doesn't provide answers so much as provoke more questions, mostly along the lines of, "Why, dear God, why?" You also have to wonder how emasculated Carvey must feel, sporting a costume that even a four-year-old girl would consider herself too butch to wear for Halloween.

That's really the biggest problem with Master of Disguise: whether you're four or forty, the film simply won't fit your comedic sensibilities. By the end of the film, even the kids in the audience stopped giggling at the fart jokes, while the parents looked ready to drive their minivans off a cliff. And while most of the humor is unbearably low, some of the film’s jokes aim a little high, at least for the target age group. Ah, if only I had a nickel for every 6-year-old kid who said, "Hey, look, an Exorcist homage!"

To be fair, there are a few good things about Master of Disguise—okay, more like two good things. The opening credits are cute, and the movie looks good—the set design by Robert Greenfield is a bright spot. Otherwise, director Blake and co-writers Carvey and Goldberg receive the distinction of crafting not only the year’s worst film, but also one of the most irritating.

—Erin Steele



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