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'Master of Disguise, The'

Carvey can't even master W.

Friday, August 02, 2002

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

Pistachio Disguisey lives up to both his names: Nutty impersonation is the family specialty. It is genetically inherited, kind of like the Force. Forced farce is the form it takes in Dana Carvey -- "The Master of Disguise."

'The Master Of Disguise'

RATING: PG for mild vulgarity

STARRING: Dana Carvey, James Brolin, Harold Gould, Jennifer Esposito, Brent Spiner

DIRECTOR: Perry Andelin Blake

WEB SITE: www.sonypictures



A paper-thin plot has something to do with the disappearance of Pistachio's father (James Brolin) and the efforts of the Disguiseys (led by grandpa Harold Gould) to thwart the plans of a comic villain named Devlin (Brent Spiner).

Devlin is a master thief with the ultimate Web site: Black Market E-Bay -- where you can purchase all the priceless national treasures he has stolen, such as the Liberty Bell, the Apollo 11 moon module, the original Constitution, and Bruce Willis' hairpiece from "Diehard 2."

This is funny. But don't get your hopes up.

What's supposed to be funnier is Carvey's series of three dozen -- count 'em, 36! -- transformational disguises in the course of the film. A few of them are, in fact, funny. My favorite is Turtle Man. Cherry-pie Man is not too funny. Neither is Cowpat Man.

In beautiful symmetry with the number of disguises is the number of fart jokes, which (together with their laughs) get bigger every time. Also involved -- as Pistachio's assistant -- is Jennifer Esposito, who neither disguises herself nor farts.

One takes one's blessings where one can get them, and one gets very few in the script (co-written by Carvey and Harris Goldberg) or in the frantic chaos that passes for direction from Perry Andelin Blake. Poor Carvey seems fragmented to death. His neo-Italian accent sounds neo-Indian most of the time.

The big disappointment is that not even his George W. Bush imitation is good! (His Poppy Bush was always so wonderful.) I'm afraid Carvey needs and misses the presence of his old "SNL" better half, Mike Myers. The presence of a real writer and director wouldn't have hurt, either, but such things are evidently considered luxuries with kiddie flicks like this.

OK, it's harmless enough, and I don't want to be too cranky. Unlike Myers' Austin Powers romps, "Master of Disguise" is -- strictly -- a film for children. Low-brow children. At the screening, they yukked it up big.

For me, however, flatulence breeds petulance: It would have saved Carvey a lot of running around (and the producers a lot of money) simply to have had him sit at a makeup table and put on wigs, interspersed with farting at periodic interludes.

Ah, well. Nobody takes my suggestions.

Dana's World, and welcome to it, kids! Just make sure, whatever you do -- if you value your parents' mental health and social development -- to leave Mom and Dad at home.

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