A scene from 'Master of Disguise'
Courtesy Photo
1star 80 minutes | Rated: PG
Opened: Friday, August 2, 2002
Directed by Perry Andelin Blake

Starring Dana Carvey, Brent Spiner, Jennifer Esposito, James Brolin, Harold Gould, Edie McClurg

This film is on the Worst of 2002 list.


Kids' movies don't get much worse. If you must rent it for your wee ones, start the VCR and run like hell.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 01.28.2003


 LINKS for this film
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'Master of Disguise' nothing but a bottom-feeding pretender to the clever kiddie cloak-and-dagger stylings of 'Spy Kids'

By Rob Blackwelder

"The funny voices? The silly faces? They were funny for about one second," says a woman breaking the heart of Pistachio Disguisey (Dana Carvey) in the nitwit kiddie spy flick "Master of Disguise."

She couldn't be more right. In a transparently desperate attempt at a career comeback, Carvey hams like a bad Christmas dinner as Pistachio, a clumsy twit of an Italian waiter who learns that he comes from a long line of disguise experts who have been "protecting the world from evil over the centuries."

For no explained reason, his father (James Brolin) has kept the family history a secret from Pistachio. But when Pistachio's mom and dad are kidnapped by their old arch-enemy -- a black-market art collector named Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner) -- Grandpa (Harold Gould) shows up to train Pistachio for a rescue mission designed to showcase Carvey's ability to affect an endless array of annoying personas.

He puts shoe polish on his face and a turban on his head, then talks like Apu from "The Simpsons." He puts on gold chains, a chest wig and a polyester shirt, then talks like John Travolta. He puts on a turtle-shaped green foam suit and a bald cap, then waddles around, stretching and retracting his neck, bugging his eyes and sing-songing the word "turtle, turtle, turtle, turtle" as if repeating it enough times will make it funny. But every one of these scenes plays like scraps of rejected skit ideas from his days on "Saturday Night Live."

Meanwhile Devlin forces Papa Disguisey to camouflage himself as Jessica Simpson, Jesse Ventura and other shameless cameo players in order to steal "rare items" like the U.S. Constitution and an Apollo lunar module -- which, despite being a so-called collector, he plans to sell on "Black Market eBay."

This catastrophe was co-written by Carvey and Harris Goldberg ("Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo"), who completely fail to give the plot even the slightest hint of continuity. In one scene a character is put in a Latex mask, then in the next he shakes his head and "morphs" back to his own face. When Carvey and Goldberg write themselves into a corner, they just make up some Disguisey gimmick to get the out of it, such as "Energico, the invisible energy field that ties all Disguiseys past and present."

To shoehorn a love interest into the movie, Grandpa tells Pistachio "it's Disguisey tradition" to have an assistant, which begets an interview montage sequence and Jennifer Esposito ("Spin City," "Summer of Sam") who tries very, very hard not to look embarrassed. Together they plan an inept rescue involving more disguises and even more random alterations to the plot.

"In his weakened state, he must have been pulled over to the dark side of Energico," says Grandpa when Papa goes nuts.

This film may amuse very small children for a few minutes at a time, but "Master of Disguise" is nothing but a bottom-feeding pretender to the clever kiddie cloak-and-dagger stylings of "Spy Kids." With a "Spy Kids" sequel opening only five days behind "Master of Disguise," why bother with this contemptible imitator starring a "Saturday Night Live" has-been acting like an 8-year-old channeling Roberto Benigni?


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