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.
©2002 by Dustin Putman