“Look, Pistachios, the silly voices, the making faces, it was fun for like one second, okay?”
In the mid to late 90s, Wayne’s World had made Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey two of the biggest comedy stars in the world. America had known these two for years as two of the most reliable performers on Saturday Night Live, but SNL hadn’t made its way to Australian TV yet. So when Wayne’s World hit, it was like two new, hilarious comic forces had appeared out of nowhere. Meyer’s flame would burn out gradually, over the next couple of decades and increasingly terrible movies. But Carvey kind of disappeared from the big screen almost immediately. Here’s something you probably didn’t know, Carvey made a movie called The Master of Disguise. Here’s something you probably didn’t notice, it was 13 years ago and it was his last starring role.
In a quick 1979 prologue, Fabbrizio Disguisey (James Brolin) recounts a covert mission in which he used his master of disguise prowess to pose as Bo Derrick and pull some heist. But his master of disguisery isn’t just the result of great makeup and prosthetics. It turns out that the Dusguisey clan has an almost super power for the art. But Fabbrizzio doesn’t want this life of danger for his son, so he keeps this family trade secret and opens an Italian restaurant in Tuscany. Cut to present day 2002 and his son has grown up to be the cartoonishly goofy Pistachio (Dana Carvey).
Fabbrizzio’s past catches up with when an old enemy (Brent Spiner as Devlin Bowman) kidnaps him and his wife (Edie McClurg). With his wife’s life at stake, Fabbrizzio is forced to use his master of disguise skills to steal great treasures of the world for Bowman. Their only hope is their oblivious son, who’s not so oblivious after a visit from his grandfather (Harold Gould) gives Pistachio a history lesson on their unique family and a training montage on learning to use his hereditary powers. Leading to an hour or so of Dana Carvey doing a rapid fire series of sketches and characters, each wackier than the last. Also, Jennifer Espositi is there as the token hot girt / straight man.
The Master of Disguise is basically a live action cartoon. Everything is obviously shot on fake, back lot sets. The accents, costumes, situations and character’s reactions to those situations are far beyond suspending even the most disbelief. And there’s no such things a music choice too obvious when deciding what song to use for a particular scene. Walking on Sunshine and Whipit could not be lazier choices. And all of that is what makes this movie fun. No pretentions, no shame about its obvious goofiness. Just dumb fun.
It’s really unfocused dumb fun too. Because I have no idea who this movie is made for. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t made for the Dana Carvey fans of the 90s who loved him on Saturday Night Live or in Wayne’s World. So much of it seems targeted at kids, but then it’s filled with references to movies like Jaws, Scarface and The Exorcist. It really is a shambles. But a charming, loveable shambles. I’m not saying this is a great movie. I’m not even saying I recommend watching it. But I am saying, it’s a harmless 80 minutes of dumb fun. And if that’s what you’re in the mood for, The Master of Disguise will more than service that mood.