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THE MASTER OF DISGUISE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Dana Carvey, Brent Spiner, Jennifer Espositio, Harold Gould, James Brolin
Director: Perry Andelin Blake
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 80 Minutes
Release Date: January 28, 2003

“That’s a crazy idea…so crazy it JUST MIGHT WORK.”

Film **

I am unfortunate to report that we have another sad case of a family movie botched by the single notion of being presented in standard format. More on this later…

I have long been a fan of Dana Carvey ever since I first saw his now legendary impersonation of George Bush. In fact, Carvey is capable of doing thousands of impersonations, each one so flawless convincing, that one could easily label him the Rich Little of his time. Seeing Carvey in The Master of Disguise was like seeing an old pro who had been gone for a while return to do what he does best like a natural pro. In the movie, you see Carvey do jaw dropping impressions of everyone from Shrek and the donkey, Al Pacino’s Tony Montana from Scarface, Robert Shaw from Jaws, and even President George W. Bush.

Unfortunately, as funny as the movie occasionally is, the laughs unfortunately do not overshadow the movie’s fundamental flaw, which it is way, way short, clocking in a just slightly over an hour. The running length is an hour and twenty minutes, but the last ten minutes of the movie are end credits mixed in with outtakes. Had the filmmakers given the movie more room to breathe, we might have had something here. The movie feels like it wants to end itself as quickly as it can.

Carvey plays Pistachio Disguisey, a bumbling Italian waiter who works for his father, Frabbrizio Disguisey (James Brolin). But Pistachio’s father hides a secret trait, which is that he has long been a professional master of disguise. Soon, Frabbrizio is kidnapped by his old nemesis, Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner), who blackmails him to use his power of disguise in order to steal rare artifacts. Meanwhile, Pistachio, unknown of his father’s secret, gets a much needed lesson from his grandfather (Harold Gould), who will intend to train Pistachio to be, himself, a master of disguise.

There are numerous funny moments in the movie. I loved where Fabbrizio, disguised as Michael Johnson—the fastest man alive, steals, or borrows the constitution from a couple of inept security guards. There’s also a running gag involving Bowman’s inability to not pass gas when he laughs, which is something I never thought I’d see Commander Data doing. Brent Spiner is actually quite good at playing a snooty villain. And, of course, there’s Dana Carvey, doing everything he can with the limited amount of time he and the other actors have been given.

Kids will no doubt go ape for this movie, since it is appropriately aimed at them. I appreciated Dana Carvey’s return to movies, having been away for a while, and I loved seeing him do what he does best in The Master of Disguise, but I strongly feel that the movie would’ve been much better had more time been added to it.

Video **

Columbia Tri Star has taken the sour route this time around by releasing The Master of Disguise in only a full screen format. Since the movie does happen to include a colorful production design, there’s no reason why this film shouldn’t had been offered in widescreen. The picture is noticeably off-framed in various scenes, and there seems to be a jittering sense of grain here and there as well. For Columbia Tri Star, this isn’t a good way to start out the year, and I certainly hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

Audio ***

No complaints here. The 5.1 audio mix on The Master of Disguise is darn-near perfect. It’s mostly a dialogue driven comedy, though being a bit of a fantasy, it does offer some good audio performance in numerous scenes, especially in scenes involving physical comedy. Words are spoken in the utmost clarity, and I didn’t detect any noise disrupts in the presentation. Good job.

Features ***1/2

I’m surprised that Columbia Tri Star didn’t think to label this a Special Edition disc, because we do have some kickin’ extras at hand here. There is an audio commentary by Dana Carvey and director Perry Blake, which is often quite humorous as one would expect, as the two constantly crack jokes about certain scenes in the film. Also included are three featurettes, alternate and deleted scenes, a music video, trailers for this and Kermit’s Swamp Years and Little Secrets.

Summary:

The Master of Disguise is good for some chuckles, but it feels incredibly rushed and could’ve used some more story to it. As for the DVD, it could’ve used some added touches itself, because one area certainly feels disguised.