15 August 2002 | Buddy-51
a comedy totally devoid of laughs
`The Master of Disguise' raises and indeed answers the question of whether or not it is possible for a movie that bills itself as a `comedy' to run from beginning to end without offering a single funny moment. (The answer, by the way, is, yes, it can be done). Thus, while his `Wayne's World' partner, Mike Myers, is out there making both a fortune and an indelible impression on pop culture with his `Austin Powers' franchise, poor Dana Carvey is reduced to appearing in disastrous vehicles like this one. Now don't get me wrong. I love Carvey's work on `Saturday Night Live,' especially his impersonations of many of the major political figures of our time. However, Carvey's manic, over-the-top style is, apparently, a whole lot easier to take in small doses. Watching him mug, cavort and pratfall his way through a laughless script for the better part of an hour and a half ultimately becomes as wearying as it is embarrassing to watch.
Stealing much of its concept from `The Mask,' `The Master of Disguise' involves Carvey in some nonsense about a family of crime fighters who are able to magically don all sorts of disguises at a moment's notice. This allows the filmmakers to enlist the aid of a number of real life celebrities who end up making cameo appearances, in the misguided belief, most likely, that this was going to be a fun, entertaining movie comedy. Boy, were they misled. Actually, I have rarely seen a film in which the jokes, `bits' and setups fall as consistently flat as they do here. To get a general notion of the level of humor in this film, please note that the running gag involves one character's tendency towards uncontrollable flatulence. It isn't funny the first time it happens and, believe me, it is even less funny the fourth, fifth (or is it sixth?) time around.
In addition to the celebrity walk-ons (Bo Derek, Jesse Ventura, Paula Abdul, among others), Harold Gould, James Brolin, Jennifer Espinoto, Brent Spiner and Edie McClurg are all good sports who deserve better material than what they have been handed here. So is Carvey when you come right down to it. But then Carvey wrote the screenplay, so he HAS to be a good sport about it. After all, he handed HIMSELF this material. I hope the other actors trapped in this mess at least got paid well for their endeavors.
The only good news is that, in the closing credits, we get to see many of the scenes, lines and characters that were, apparently, filmed, then dropped from the final product. One can only imagine how much worse the film would have been had they all been allowed to stay in.