[box cover]

The Master of Disguise

There is a moment of unintentional insight into the plight of Dana Carvey in his 2002 vehicle The Master of Disguise: While trying to entertain an upset child he does an imitation of Shrek and the Donkey from 2001's smash hit Shrek. Both voices, of course, belong to two of the biggest actor/comedians to leave "Saturday Night Live" (Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers), of which Carvey was once a cast member as well. Carvey also was Myers' costar in the Wayne's World movies. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, imitation is also a sign of second-hand cleverness. Which points out why Carvey's cinematic highlights are limited to appearing in films with other (dare we say better) film comedians. Such a cinematic career doesn't do justice to Carvey, as he was one of the great SNL cast members, wonderful at doing quick impressions of people like Jimmy Stewart, George Bush, and Johnny Carson. But like any great sketch player, Carvey finds it hard to play a single character (especially a non-wacky one) throughout a movie, which is why The Master of Disguise seems like it should be a good vehicle for him. He plays Pistachio Disgusey, a member of a family with a long history of doing immaculate impressions, but a line of work his father Fabbrizio (James Brolin) feels is too dangerous for Pistachio. But when evil doer Devlin Bowman (Brett Spiner) — who has a predilection for inappropriately farting — kidnaps Fabbrizio and his wife to help him steal precious American icons, Pistachio is set up to work his family's magic to find his parents by his grandfather (Harold Gould), who has always wanted Pistachio to follow the family tradition. And with the help of his new assistant Jennifer (Jennifer Esposito), he might be able to find them. Ostensibly for children, The Master of Disguise may have been turned into a kids movie when it was realized that only young children laugh at fart jokes and puns this stupid. But even so, for a film aimed at children, it's obsessed with big butts and features impressions of people that kids probably wouldn't appreciate (Bo Derek, Tony Montana from Scarface, etc.). Barely feature length (running 80 minutes with extended opening and closing credits), the movie features Carvey doing a lot of impressions (his "disguises" are nothing more than him doing a poor man's SNL characters), but the film makes a classic comedy mistake by making its main character a boob; it's one thing to be naive or an innocent, but Pistachio is just a grade-A moron (relying on Jennifer to do everything, who then falls for him!), and as such he's insufferable. That Carvey appears uncomfortable playing a character that has any sense of normalcy seems borderline pathological, but that might make The Master of Disguise a better case study than a comedy. Columbia TriStar has released the film in full-frame (1.33:1) only with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary with Carvey and director Perry Blake, three featurettes, five deleted scenes with introductions by Carvey (as the Turtle Man, the most popular aspect of the film), trailers, and a music video. Keep-case.