The Master of Disguise, by Albert W. Vogt III

For my most recent birthday, one of my best friends bought me a genuine Louisville Slugger wooden baseball bat. I loved this gift for many reasons. For starters, it is a perfect token of our mutual love for America’s Pastime, even if he is an unfortunate fan of the Atlanta Braves. Then again, nobody is perfect. The other reason this is such a great thing to give me is that I love barreling up baseballs with an oak implement. When you connect in just the right spot at the fat end, you feel the ball give way with a pleasing ease. It conjures delusions of playing in Major League Baseball. Anyway, I keep the bat near me where I sit while watching movies, picking it occasionally to reminisce about the awesome swings I made with it and could still make. It becomes a bit of a dangerous weapon when I am seeing a film like The Master of Disguise (2002).

I like Wayne’s World as much as the next guy. Dana Carvey has struggled to do anything else, and The Master of Disguise is a painful example of this fact. Do not get me wrong, people who do impressions can be funny. After watching this film, I firmly believe they cannot carry an entire feature-length movie. And that is essentially what this is, but in order to force some kind of arbitrary plot onto a (thankfully short) hour and twenty minute feature, we get the Disguisey family, a secret clan of people who are experts at impersonating others. This is explained in narration as we see a Bo Derek running from a palace in 1979. It is actually Fabbrizio Disguisey (James Brolin) wearing a rubber suit that makes him look like the once famous actress, and he has thwarted a plan of some kind from mustache twirling villain Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner). After getting away, he vows not continue the family business, and that is where we are (unfortunately) introduced to his son, Pistachio (Dana Carvey). We see him grow up, though, inept and yet mimicking everyone around, which is a totally cool way to gain popularity. Sometimes it is hard to write sarcasm, but I digress. In modern times, the Disguiseys own a stereotypical Italian restaurant, and Pistachio bumbles his through working as a server in it. After it closes, Devlin shows up and kidnaps his parents in revenge for what had happened twenty years ago. Because the ability to dress up as another person is apparently magical in this world, Grandfather Disguisey (Harold Gould) arrives without being told what happened in order to teach Pistachio the family trade. The film has the temerity to compare this to Jedi training, and Grandpa Disguisey amazingly refers to himself as Yoda at one point. Sigh. In the meantime, Devlin has Fabbrizio impersonating all manner of celebrities in order to steal priceless artifacts from around the country. Yes, somehow this movie seems to think Olympic Gold Medal sprinter Michael Johnson will be handed the original United States Constitution, or that the Smithsonian will give pop singer Jessica Simpson the Lunar Lander Module from Apollo 11, simply because they ask for these items. Devlin plans to sell them on the black market (there is some dumb alternative name they came up for the illicit trade network, but I did not write it down and have blessedly forgotten it), and to pin it all on Fabbrizio. Eventually, also with the help of his assistant Jennifer Baker (Jennifer Esposito), Pistachio is ready to fake his way into Devlin’s lair and rescue his parents. Now, infuriatingly we spend much of the film’s run time watching Pistachio get in and out of ridiculous disguise after ridiculous disguise, only to finally have his best one yet be uncovered immediately by Devlin. There follows a dumb action sequence with the patented Disguisey slap fighting, Devlin is stopped, parents saved, and finally the credits start rolling . . . but not before grandfather, son, and grandson disguise themselves one last time to track down Devlin in Costa Rica. End. End. End.

Actually, that is not the complete end of The Master of Disguise for there were extras sprinkled through the credits. I did not bother to stick around for them. I had enough of the movie by that point. It may not seem like it, but I truly do not like criticizing movies. However, my thoughts turned sour with the opening credits when it became apparent that Adam Sandler and his production company were at least partially responsible for this turkey. I have documented in other reviews how thoroughly unfunny I find him and almost everything he touches. This is one of his masterpieces of awful, though he somehow managed to not be in it. Still, if that is not enough for you, let me explain a few reasons why there is zero comedic value. For starters, supposedly sweet, innocent Pistachio objectifies women. His initial criteria for his perfect female was one with a large butt, but he makes an exception for Jennifer because she has other physical attributes he likes. Also, the jokes are truly bizarre. I will admit to reveling in random humor, but sometimes there are things that will make those on the set laugh, but the audience that is not in on the caper will remain unmoved. Nothing typifies this better for me than when Pistachio and Jennifer go to the Turtle Club, following the lead of a discarded cigar by Devlin when he kidnapped the Disguiseys. Pistachio decides to go literally dressed as a turtle because, you know, it is the Turtle Club. Get it? But then he inexplicably goes around calling everyone “turtle.” It was at this point that I picked up my baseball bat and charged at the television. I should not do such things. My Faith calls for restraint, and it is another reason why I do not necessarily like to be critical. Dana Carvey and company have a right to continue their movie careers as they see fit, and if they can get people to watch a movie like this one then God bless them.

I also have a right to not recommend The Master of Disguise to you, which is what I am doing. It is not funny, and it would not be so to any audience, young or old. And the way Pistachio talks about women is pretty disgusting. Catholicism teaches us to treat women as we would if we met the Virgin Mary. I understand I am reaching a bit here, but this film is so out of phase with, well, everything. It is not evil, necessarily, it is just bad.


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