Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

Carvey's Master of Disguise Could Be Funnier

Carvey's <I>Master of Disguise</I> Could Be Funnier
The Master of Disguise - PG

Best for: Kids 6 to 12.

The plot: Pistachio Disguisey (Dana Carvey) is a simple, sweet-natured man who works in his parents' (James Brolin, Edie McClurg) Italian restaurant. Many times he compulsively mimics the customers and ends up insulting them. He doesn't understand why he does this until his father explains that it's a gift from a long line of masters of disguise -- men who can look like anyone they want to simply by using a power called "Energico." Fabbrizio and his wife are kidnapped by his former arch-enemy Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner), who plans to steal the world's most precious treasures using Fabbrizio's ability to look like anyone he wants to. Pistachio turns to his grandfather (Harold Gould) for help and he trains him to become a master of disguise. Along the way he hires a beautiful assistant (Jennifer Esposito) who happens to be the mother of a local neighborhood boy Pistachio has befriended. The two eventually become partners in work and romance.

The good: The appeal of this movie is obviously Dana Carvey and his 36 disguises and impersonations. It is truly amazing to see how this man transforms himself into so many different characters, including a turtle man (who wants to get into the elite "Turtle Club"), a snake charmer from India, a toy creator and others. I enjoyed how he cleverly used scenes from movies (we hear the score from The Exorcist and Jaws), plays famous people (Al Pacino, David Niven, etc.) and even interacts with actual famous people in several scenes (Bo Derek, wearing a low cut dress). Some of his characters are people that kids won't remember or even know, so those are clearly thrown in for the adults to enjoy.

But Carvey's not the only one who transforms his looks. Brolin's character is a master of disguise himself, so when Bowman attempts to steal America's important treasures (a space capsule, the Liberty bell, etc.) we see the real Jesse Ventura, Jessica Simpson and a parade of other "celebs" (playing themselves until they get in the car with Bowman and turn back into Brolin). It's entertaining and will keep you watching as well as guessing who the stars are.

The side plot about Pistachio wanting to fall in love is also handled in a sweet and innocent way, with a happy ending for all. Don't leave when the credits start to roll: At least 5 minutes of outtakes, bloopers and sketches remain. It has to be one of the longest credits in movie history, but it's amusing and worthwhile.

Your kids will enjoy this movie because it's got funny looking characters, adventure, good guys vs. bad guys and a cute and harmless leading man kids will immediately like. If you enjoy Carvey's work, you'll be intrigued by what this master can do.

The bad: I remember Dana from his Saturday Night Live days, and I enjoyed his funny characters (Church Lady) and impersonations (President Bush). I assumed this movie would be just as funny and went expecting lots of laughs. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't laugh that much.

The movie is interesting because of the many characters, and I was entertained. But I think I was expecting more hilarious situations or funny scenes (like what Jim Carrey can deliver). Instead, there are humorous situations and slapstick characters with the funniest scene being the now famous (because of the trailer) Turtle Man. The story plays to a younger crowd, using simple jokes, cartoon-style violence, pranks and buffoonish pratfalls to carry it off. Several scenes involve a running gag on Spiner passing gas every time he laughs at Brolin. I couldn't believe how the kids in my audience howled at that scene every time, proving once again that it's the simplest human goofs that sometimes bring the biggest laughs and reactions. There are actually several places where the dialogue has double meaning (Pistachio asks a waiter if he has any wieners and nuts while examining a tray of appetizers) or gets downright blunt (Pistachio wants to find a woman with a big rear end like his mother's), but most of that is for the older audience to laugh at and "get."

Offensive language and behavior: A couple of mild obscenities but mostly crude references to bodily functions or people's physical looks. A running gag of a man loudly passing gas (at least 5 times). Pistachio disguises himself as a piece of grass with a large cow patty on his face (a man steps on it and leaves the smashed imprint on his head).

Sexual content: Pistachio has an attraction to women with very large posteriors (the camera focuses on women who have padded their posterior to make it look big), and he makes comments made about women's rear ends. A man's pants are pulled down a couple of times and we see his boxer shorts. There's a side plot about Jennifer's boyfriend acting like a jerk and being mean to Pistachio (calling her son Barney a brat and laughing when he wipes out on his skateboard).

Violence: Lots of slapping, hitting, pratfalls and cartoonish violence played for action and comedy rather than realism. Grandfather and Pistachio have a scene where they slap each other as well as a machine (that supposedly teaches them how to fight). That seemed a bit cruel to me and certainly didn't make the grandfather's character endearing. Turtle man bites a man's nose off (no blood is shown just a blank space) then reattaches it.

Parental advisory: The audience I saw this with was packed with kids and they laughed and enjoyed this unusual caper. The scenes that got the most laughs involved the flatulence jokes, so some parents may want to be prepared for some "imitative" behavior in the car on the ride home. Some of the dialogue may need to be explained to younger children who won't get it, and most kids won't recognize many of the impersonations.

It's a wrap: I took my 16-year-old son and 18-year-old nephew, who have enjoyed Carvey's previous work, and they thought this was a silly movie with only a few funny scenes. I think it's an entertaining movie, not hilarious or really funny, but one with creative characters, interesting cameo appearances and some of the best makeup artistry I've ever seen. It will amuse and entertain most adults and kids under 12.