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Perry Andelin Blake
Dana Carvey, Jennifer Esposito, Harold Gould, James Brolin, Brent Spiner, Edie McClurg
Writing Credits:
Dana Carvey, Harris Goldberg

He can get into any disguise... getting out is another story.
Box Office:
Budget $16 million.
Opening weekend $12.554 million on 2565 screens.
Domestic gross $40.363 million.
Rated PG for mild language and some crude humor.

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround
English, Spanish, French

Runtime: 80 min.
Price: $27.96
Release Date: 1/28/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Perry Andelin Blake and Actor Dana Carvey
• Alternate and Deleted Scenes with New Turtle Guy Intros
• “Man of a Thousand Faces” Featurette
• “The Magic of Disguise” Featurette
• “Identity Crisis” Featurette
• “M.A.S.T.E.R. Part 2” Music Video
• Trailers


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Master of Disguise (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 15, 2002)

After many years off the show biz train, Dana Carvey hopped back on board in 2002 with the theatrical flick The Master of Disguise. For the most part, Carvey vanished after the end of his short-lived 1996 TV series. With all that time off, one might think he’d come up with something terrific to mark his return. Unfortunately, Design seems like little more than a moderately fun idea saddled with dull execution.

Disguise starts with a prologue that introduces us to the Disguisey family, a clan with an inherited talent for impersonation. We flash back to 1979 and meet Frabbrizio (James Brolin), the current master of disguise. After a particularly rough mission that results in the capture of arch villain Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner), Frabbrizio decides that he won’t ever involve his son in this stressful life.

We then head toward 2002, where we discover that Frabbrizio now runs an Italian restaurant in America. His wife (Edie McClurg) runs the kitchen and his son Pistachio (Carvey) works as a waiter. For his whole life, Pistachio felt the urge to imitate others, but his dad never revealed the reason for this desire.

Bowman reemerges and kidnaps both Frabbrizio and his wife. He threatens to harm Mrs. Disguisey if Frabbrizio doesn’t do his bidding. Bowman wants to use Frabbrizio’s talents to steal all sorts of tremendous treasures. For example, we see him disguise himself as Jesse Ventura to steal the Liberty Bell.

In the meantime, Pistachio’s grandfather (Harold Gould) shows up and educates his grandson about the family destiny. Grandpa then trains Pistachio in the art of disguise so he can use these skills to save his parents. To help, they hire Jennifer Baker (Jennifer Esposito), the mother of Pistachio’s young friend Barney (Austin Wolff), to be his assistant. The pair then embark on series of adventures to rescue Frabbrizio and his wife.

On the positive side, Disguise enjoys a fairly clever concept. To be sure, the basic idea contains a lot of possibilities for fun, as it features a virtually limitless parade of potential characters and situations. With a little imagination and cleverness, Disguise could have been a very inventive and enjoyable experience.

Unfortunately, Disguise provides very little imagination and cleverness. Essentially, the movie feels like nothing more than an excuse for Carvey to play a mix of characters. It seems like the film adapts the situations to fit his personalities instead of doing the reverse, which would be more appropriate. Carvey wants to play a personality similar to Tony Montana from Scarface? Let’s throw a party with a Latin theme! Carvey wants to play Quint from Jaws? Let’s toss him on an incongruous boat in a pond! Virtually none of the characters flow with the movie, as they all feel tacked on and artificial. Clearly the filmmakers invented the personalities and just made them fit into the story.

If Carvey managed to make any of these characters funny, I might not mind, but he clearly isn’t at the top of his game here. Maybe he’s just rusty after all that time away from show biz, but his performance seems terribly uninspired. The different characters lack any spark, and Pistachio himself comes across as twee and annoying.

The supporting cast doesn’t fare much better, but they don’t get many opportunities to shine. We’re never allowed to forget that this is Carvey’s comeback vehicle, and his antics dominate the piece. Esposito looks hot, but otherwise none of the actors stand out from the crowd.

Essentially The Master of Disguise just gives us an unending parade of lame gags, and it wears out its welcome well before it ends. It seems hard to believe that the movie only runs 80 minutes, as it feels like it lasts forever. The extremely long end credit sequence doesn’t help; the actual story only fills about 70 minutes, but the credits just don’t stop. Disguise doesn’t provide a painfully bad flick, but it seems insubstantial, boring and not amusing in the least.

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio B- / Bonus B

The Master of Disguise appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Along with other flicks like The Country Bears, Big Fat Liar, and Snow Dogs, Disguise offered another “family” film that only provides a pan and scan transfer. Why do studios think that families refuse to watch letterboxed images? And why didn’t Columbia-Tristar (CTS) include both options on this disc, which certainly had enough room for the pair?

I don’t know, but I definitely don’t like this trend. I’m more than happy to see the choice offered, whether via both fullscreen and widescreen on the same release or through separate issues. It stinks that CTS only bothered to put out a pan and scan cut of the film.

In any case, the fullscreen edition of Disguise provided a decent but unexceptional picture. Sharpness seemed fairly positive. Some wide shots came across as somewhat soft, but otherwise the movie remained reasonably crisp and accurate. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I noticed light to moderate grain plus occasional examples of specks and marks. However, the movie generally stayed clean.

Disguise presented a pretty vivid palette, and the DVD displayed those tones well. The colors appeared distinct and vibrant across the board, and they suffered from no concerns related to noise, bleeding or other issues. Black levels seemed deep and tight, but some low-light sequences came across as somewhat dense. Shadow detail looked acceptable for the most part, but the definition seemed a little lackluster. Ultimately, The Master of Disguise presented a good image but not one that matched up with better modern films.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Master of Disguise also seemed fairly positive but not special. The soundfield mostly oriented toward the front speakers. Music showed solid stereo imaging, and environmental elements seemed appropriately placed within the spectrum. Effects moved between channels neatly and blended together well. Surround elements mostly backed up the forward material. Some unique bits appeared, especially when Pistachio went into trances. Still, the track remained pretty simple for the most part.

Audio quality varied but usually seemed acceptable. Speech showed the biggest concerns, as dialogue occasionally came across as somewhat dull and muffled and lacked natural tendencies. However, the lines always remained intelligible and lacked edginess, and they usually came across as decent. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and they demonstrated good dynamic response. In addition, music appeared vivid and distinct, and the score also showed nice low-end material. Overall, despite the occasionally weak speech and the lackluster scope of the piece, the soundtrack of Disguise seemed acceptable.

On this DVD of The Master of Disguise, we find a decent mix of supplements. We start with an audio commentary from director Perry Blake and actor/writer Dana Carvey, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific track. Though the pair seem lively and chatty, they don’t provide much real information about the flick. Mostly they let us know who worked on certain segments, and we often hear the names of various actors. Occasionally, some decent notes emerge, and the piece comes across as moderately entertaining, but it doesn’t offer a very useful or enlightening experience.

Next we find a collection of six Alternate and Deleted Scenes with New Turtle Guy Intros. These clips last between 41 seconds and five minutes, 40 seconds for a total of 17 minutes and 44 seconds of footage. Most of that shows the unused segments, but the Turtle Guy footage accounts for a fair amount of the running time. Carvey reprises his disguise from the movie for those bits; he gives us the occasional fact about the material but mostly just goofs for the camera. I didn’t care for these snippets, but fans of the film should like them, and they seemed like a somewhat cool extra.

As for the scenes themselves, I thought they appeared fairly lame, but given my lack of affection for the flick itself, that didn’t come as a surprise. Some of the clips also showed up in the movie’s end credits, but a lot of new material popped up here. Though none of the footage amused me, at least the “Toy Fair” clip displayed Jennifer Esposito in a very sexy outfit.

After this we find three different featurettes. Man of a Thousand Faces lasts eight minutes and 33 seconds and mixes movie clips, behind the scenes material, and interviews. We hear from actor Dana Carvey – both in and out of character – plus make-up artist Kevin Yagher, director Perry Blake, costume designer Mona May, producer Sid Ganis, set designer Dominic Silvestri, and visual effects artist David Jones. This piece focuses on costume and make-up designs. Carvey relates how the costumes and make-up influenced characters, and we get some nuts and bolts notes about their creation. In addition, we learn a little about the movie’s visual effects, most of which concentrate on mask removal scenes. Overall, “Faces” provides a decent but unexceptional look at these subjects.

Called The Magic of Disguise, the second featurette lasts five minutes and 23 seconds and uses the same format as the prior one. We get comments from actors Jennifer Esposito, and James Brolin, director Perry Blake, set designer Dominic Silvestri, and production designer Alan Au. The program covers lighting design, the sets, and items like the slapping dummy. Despite the show’s brevity, it offers some good information, and the behind the scenes shots provide a lot of interesting tidbits.

Lastly, Identity Crisis runs 12 minutes and 16 seconds, and it features the same format as the other two featurettes. It includes remarks from Dana Carvey - again in and out of character – plus fellow actors Brent Spiner, Jennifer Esposito, Harold Gould, Edie McClurg and James Brolin, producer Sid Ganis, and director Perry Blake. A smidgen of useful information shows up here; for instance, Carvey discusses some of his early drafts of the script. Otherwise, we mostly just hear praise of Carvey and Blake. The program seems very fluffy, and other than a few fun shots from the set, it comes across like a waste of time.

Major annoyance: virtually everything on the DVD features widescreen images except for the movie itself! Another irritation: Disguise may set a record for the most screens you have to skip to get to the movie itself. When you hit play, you’ll have to wade through FBI warnings and other disclaimers, and many of these also appear in non-English languages! I didn’t count, but I’m sure you have to skip through at least six separate screens to make it to the movie. This seems silly and absurd.

A few minor tidbits round out the package. We find a music video for “M.A.S.T.E.R. Part 2” by PLAY featuring Lil Fizz from B2K. This tune offers the same old dance/rap crap, and the boring video mixes movie clips with lip-synch shots. Lastly, we get trailers for The Master of Disguise plus Kermit’s Swamp Years and Little Secrets.

Meant as Dana Carvey’s comeback film, The Master of Disguise achieved some modest goals. With a budget of only $16 million, it turned a small profit as it grossed $40 million. Unfortunately, Disguise feels like a lame excuse for Carvey to perform his schtick, and the movie goes nowhere. The movie presents decent but unexceptional picture and sound along with a reasonably interesting though inconsistent roster of extras. I can’t recommend The Master of Disguise to anyone who doesn’t know they like the movie, and even those folks might want to skip it since the DVD demonstrates only a pan and scan transfer.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3636 Stars Number of Votes: 33
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