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With: Dana Carvey, Jennifer Esposito, Brent Spiner, Harold Gould, James Brolin, Austin Wolff, Edie McClurg, Maria Canals-Barrera
Written by: Dana Carvey, Harris Goldberg
Directed by: Perry Andelin Blake
MPAA Rating: PG for mild language and some crude humor
Running Time: 80
Date: 08/02/2002

The Master of Disguise (2002)

1/2 Star (out of 4)

The Disaster of 'Disguise'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The most compelling argument you will hear for The Master of Disguise is, "Hey, it's for kids!" Unfortunatlely, that just doesn't hold water. Most 8, 9 and 10-year-olds are far too sophisticated for this movie. In fact, the only young people who possibly will enjoy "The Master of Disguise" are infants whose senses have developed enough that they can sense color; they might be distracted by the movie's quick movements and sounds. And Amish kids who have never seen any other movie or TV show might be mildly amused. Anyone older than 5 will be insulted. We're talking a movie that's at least as bad as Sorority Boys and even worse than Juwanna Mann. At least the latter movie made me laugh. Once. The Master of Disguise is so painfully, aggressively, punishingly bad, that you'd be better off tossing your nine bucks in the street and watching people walk by for 80 minutes. Even defecating pigeons would be more interesting.

Here's the drill: Dana Carvey plays Pistachio Disguisey (nope, I'm not kidding), the latest in a long line of disguise masters, though Pistachio's father (James Brolin) has vowed not to let his son enter such a dangerous life. So Pistachio grows up to be an idiot, talking in a horrible Italian accent and working as an inept waiter at his father's restaurant (and, yes, dumping spaghetti on unsuspecting customers). When his mother (Edie McClurg) and father are kidnapped by a power-hungry arch-villain (Brent Spiner), Pistachio's grandfather (Harold Gould) teaches him everything he needs to know to rescue them. He even hires a sexy assistant -- a single mom -- played by Jennifer Esposito, who ends up doing most of the work while Pistachio screws around.

You've already seen the funniest bits on the TV ad: taming a snake by playing Kenny G music and the turtle guy. In the actual film, the turtle guy is funny for two seconds but then goes on too long. Way too long. Way, way too long. Dressed up as the Indian snake charmer, Carvey introduces himself with a long name and a hometown of Bombay, India. For no reason other than to grate on our nerves, he repeats the word "India" four times. Carvey also does a fairly interesting Robert Shaw from "Jaws," but what 5-year-old is going to get that reference? Most of the jokes are hardly even that sophisticated. Every time Spiner laughs his evil, bad-guy laugh, he farts. Every time. Over and over. I hope Spiner got paid a lot of money for this because he should be ashamed of himself. I'm ashamed of myself for watching.

Here are a couple more telling details: Co-writer Harris Goldberg helped pen Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, and Adam Sandler (Mr. Deeds) appears as one of the movie's producers. The truth is that the makers of "The Master of Disguise" have made the ultimate error -- they've assumed that kids are stupid and just need to be plunked down in front of something to make them shut up for 80 minutes. Kids are smart and need something to stimulate them. They've seen fart jokes already. They know how to fart themselves.

Parents: Don't take your kids to this movie. See instead some of the much better kids' fare released this year, like The Powerpuff Girls Movie, Lilo & Stich, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, Like Mike or even Scooby-Doo. Or better yet, rent some classics like The Iron Giant, Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

It pains me to say this because I really like Dana Carvey. Always have. His Johnny Carson and Ross Perot characters on "Saturday Night Live" were pure genius, and he brought a touch of sweetness to the otherwise dim-witted role of Garth in the two funny Wayne's World movies. I suspect he just simply started out on the wrong path and continued along it, unable or unwilling to turn back. As proof of how misguided this film is, Carvey disguises himself as G.W. Bush to rescue the stolen U.S. Constitution in the movie's final scene.

Even the movie's many outtakes, which pad out the movie's brief running time, are excruciatingly unfunny. In one outtake, Jennifer Esposito breaks up at Carvey's antics, and I guarantee that's the only laugh in the movie. The only interesting thing is a dog (called "The Cuteness") who rides a skateboard, which in retrospect would probably be more appropriate on something like the brain-dead "America's Funniest Home Videos."

One kid in the audience was so bored that he crawled in and out of our row, and even stepped on my foot. It was the only time I felt anything during The Master of Disguise.

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