Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Dana Carvey's first lead
appearance in a motion picture in eight years (1994's "Trapped in
Paradise" was his last) has the untimely distinction of being released
just one week after "Wayne's World" co-star Mike Myers' return in
the hugely popular "Austin Powers in Goldmember." Now, "Goldmember"
isn't going to win any awards come next March, but its slim shot looks
progressively bright in comparison to the abysmally unfunny "The Master
of Disguise." There is nothing worse in the comedy genre than a film
that doesn't carry a single inspired moment of humor, unless it is
a film that doesn't carry a single inspired moment. Period. "The Master
of Disguise" has obtained such a feat.
If a movie wants you to laugh but for no other reason than the oddball
name of the lead character, you should know what you're getting yourself
into. Pistachio Disguisey (Dana Carvey) is a bumbling waiter working
at his parent's Italian restaurant with a tendency of uncontrollably
mimicking, and offending, the customers. When his loving mom (Edie
McClurg) and dad (James Brolin) are ruthlessly kidnapped, Pistachio's
long-lost grandfather (Harold Gould) swoops in to expose a deep, dark
secret his parents have kept from him since birth: the Disguisey ancestry
is of a long line of special agents with a knack for disguising themselves
as anything and anyone. After a period of training, Pistachio acquires
an assistant in the form of lovely single mother Jennifer (Jennifer
Esposito), and sets out to find his parents and save the day.
"The Master of Disguise" fails to work on any level, most of all in
the laugh department. Cobbled together by screenwriters Dana Carvey
and Harris Goldberg and amateurishly directed by Perry Andelin Blake,
the movie is weakly held together by just enough plotting to make
the proceedings comprehensible. Mostly, though, it is a train wreck
barrage of recycled spoofs and head-scratchingly random jokes that
will go over the heads of the kids in the audience, and leave the
adults stonefaced. "The Exorcist," "Jaws," and "Serpico" all have
embarrassing send-ups, as does a woeful gag involving Madonna's "Papa
Don't Preach" that was orchestrated in the exact same fashion in 2001's "Sugar & Spice."
At the very thought of comedian Dana Carvey dressing up in different
costumes and impersonating various people and things, one may suspect
that some entertainment value is surely to be had. Those unsuspecting
potential viewers would be wrong. Carvey has been good in the past
(Garth in "Wayne's World" springs immediately to mind), but he is
unctuous for every moment he is onscreen here, and has seemingly lost
even a rudimentary understanding of successful comic timing. In a
sorry bid to appeal to all ages that resembles grasping at straws,
Carvey has ended up with a motion picture that will likely please no one.
Brent Spiner (2001's "I Am Sam" and TV's "Star Trek"), as arch villain
Devlin Bowman; James Brolin (2000's "Traffic"), as Pistachio's father;
and Edie McClurg (2001's "National Lampoon's Van Wilder"), as Pistachio's
mother, are respected actors whose appearances mark a low point in
each of their careers. Third-rate cameos by Jesse Ventura, Jesse Johnson,
Bo Derek, and Jessica Simpson are just as inexplicable. If there is
a person that barely manages to work their way out of the rubble,
it is the radiant Jennifer Esposito (2001's "Don't Say a Word"), as
Pistachio's love interest and assistant. Esposito is so far above
the insulting material she has to work with that she might as well
have filmed her scenes in space.
There is something to be said about the Hollywood film industry when
a movie as desperately inane as "The Master of Disguise" comes along.
Dana Carvey and his cohorts may have meant well, but only a human
vegetable could have possibly viewed the final cut and not have had
any vocal concerns about the submerged level of quality on display.
"The Master of Disguise" ultimately wouldn't have passed muster as
a two-minute skit on "Saturday Night Live." As a scant (but still
drug-out) 76-minute feature, it is downright insufferable.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman