Rated PG - Running Time: 1:16 - Released 8/2/02

There is no question that Dana Carvey is one of the most talented and versatile ex-members of the Saturday Night Live cast, having created such memorable characters as the Church Lady, Hans the bodybuilder, and Mike Meyers's Wayne's World co-star Garth, not to mention his impersonations of President George Bush (Sr.), Ross Perot, Johnny Carson, and Jimmy Stewart. But if The Master Of Disguise is his attempt at creating an Austin Powers-type franchise, he's got a long way to go. Written by and starring Carvey, with help on the screenplay by Harris Goldberg (I'll Be Home for Christmas, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo), and directed by freshman Perry Andelin Blake, who has served as production designer for all of Adam Sandler's movies plus a few others but is getting his first try behind the camera, this film is yet another demonstration that just because an actor can create funny characters for 3-minute SNL sketches doesn't mean he can support his own full-length feature movie. As expected, this film features occasional moments of Carvey genius (many of which are seen in the trailer) sprinkled sparsely throughout a senseless, leaden production full of utterly stupid dialogue, inane plot threads, dimly conceived characters, and uniformly weak supporting performances. Produced by Sandler's Happy Madison Films, it maintains that company's low standards for production value as seen in movies like Bigalow, The Animal, Little Nicky, Joe Dirt, and Sandler's currently showing film Mr. Deeds.

The film introduces us to Carver's character, Pistachio Disguisey, a dim but good-natured Italian American who, like Chris Kattan's character in Corky Romano, has been kept in the dark about his family's business because he's apparently too stupid to understand. Although Pistachio works as a waiter in his father Fabbrizio's Italian restaurant, his dad (James Brolin) comes from a long line of Disguiseys, who use their uncanny ability to look and act like other people for the purpose of...well, I don't really know what the purpose is. But Pistachio is finally brought up to speed by his grandfather (Harold Gould) when Fabbrizio is kidnapped by the vengeful Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner of Star Trek fame) and forced to impersonate famous people while stealing precious artifacts for Bowman's collection. After a surprisingly unfunny training sequence, Pistachio's grand-dad deems him a "Master of Disguise," hires a comely assistant named Jennifer (Jennifer Esposito, apparently only present for the purpose of having a cute babe in the picture), and sends him off to rescue his dad.

Although my kids seemed to enjoy this movie (they'll watch anything), I was surprised at the dearth of laughs, especially from an established talent like Carvey. I didn't expect the story to be very good, but I at least thought he would shine. His timing seems off for most of the picture, as if he's constantly aware that his well-known talent for improvisation is being squelched by the film's sub-par script and Blake's lackluster direction. Meanwhile, Esposito possesses all the screen presence of a deer caught in the headlights, noticeably breaking character when she's not speaking and appearing generally unaware of what the gag is supposed to be. Brolin, Spiner, and Gould give passable supporting performances, and there are several cameos by famous people, but their participation is clearly meant as support for Carvey's high-energy tomfoolery. Unfortunately the high-energy part just isn't there. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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