The Master Of Disguise

on August 02, 2002 by Bridget Byrne
There are some flatulence jokes--well, only one really, but often repeated--that might draw a titter or two from anyone possessed of little boy humor, but that's it. Nothing else to laugh about here--not the concept, none of the roulette wheel of characters Dana Carvey creates, not a single moment even appealingly silly enough for a smirk. The opening titles set over flipbook mismatched compilations of odd humans and creatures do establish some expectations that the story might have a magic touch. But no such luck. The closing credits--if anyone sticks around long enough to see this lengthy blooper and outtake-laden add-on--try to convince you that you've seen something entertaining. Again, no such luck.

   Carney's main character, the nerdy offspring of Italian restaurateurs, is too cliché-goofy to provided any sort of springboard for his adventures when he discovers that he has inherited the family talent to transform himself into anything he chooses in order to fight baddies--or, in this case, one standard, greedy, flatulent baddie, played by Brent Spiner. Carney's disguise choices run the gamut--some of his standard impersonations, such as George Bush; some old; some new; some borrowed; some blue. The film is so busy making reference to other films and trying to be other films that it fails to have a heart, mind or humor of its own. Most of the disguises have a desperate carelessness, lacking pith or punch. There are occasional sightings of Carvey's talent, such as in his impersonation of Robert Shaw as the ornery sea captain in "Jaws," but all that does is make one wish Shaw was still alive to be able to play ornery himself. Celebrities of a sort pop up in cameos portraying themselves in a plot angle that has the villain using them to steal precious artifacts in exchange for their autograph or a photo op with the guardians of the treasures. That almost touches on the truth of this celebrity-obsessed culture--one of the few concepts in the tasteless mess of a storyline that as any resonance.

   The supporting cast members do what they can not to look too foolish. James Brolin as Carvey's dad loses that battle, but Harold Gould as his granddad and Jennifer Esposito as his assistant and unlikely love interest just about survive the gross, pathetic indignity of it all. Starring Dana Carvey, Brent Spiner, Jennifer Esposito, Harold Gould and James Brolin. Directed by Perry Andelin Blake. Written by Dana Carvey and Harris Goldberg. Produced by Sid Ganis, Alex Siskin, Barry Bernardi and Todd Garner. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated PG for mild language and some crude humor. Running time: 80 min

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