The Master of Disguise is a 2002 comedy film starring Dana Carvey, Jennifer Esposito, Harold Gould, James Brolin, and Brent Spiner. Adam Sandler produced The Master of Disguise through his Happy Madison production company.
In Palermo, Italy in 1979, Fabbrizio Disguisey, the latest in a long line of Italian secret agents known as "Masters of Disguise", breaks up a smuggling ring run by the evil Devlin Bowman but barely avoids getting caught (while disguised as Bo Derek). Bowman is arrested and Fabbrizio decides it best to keep his family's identity a secret from his infant son, Pistachio. Twenty-three years later, Fabbrizio runs an Italian restaurant in America with his unnamed wife and Pistachio working as, respectively, the cook and a waiter. Thanks to his yet-untold family heritage, Pistachio has a tendency to mock people at random, which are annoying and badly timed impersonations. He's also looking for a wife that has a large rear like his mother, but his nerdy demeanor makes him unattractive to women, as well as a target for bullies, like fellow waiter Rex.
One night, Devlin Bowman, fresh out of jail, kidnaps Fabbrizio and "Mama", forcing the former to use his Disguisey powers to steal legendary artifacts like the U.S. Constitution, the Liberty Bell, and the Apollo 11 Lunar Module while disguised as track runner Michael Johnson, actor and former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura, and singer Jessica Simpson while also threatening to harm his wife, who is brainwashed to not notice anything. Shortly after Fabbrizio's disappearance, Pistachio is visited by his unnamed grandfather, who reveals Pistachio's heritage and begins training him in the ways of becoming a Master of Disguise.
Eventually, Pistachio gets the basics of the Disguiseys way down and his grandfather gets him an assistant, the gorgeous (but small-bottomed) Jennifer Baker, while he has bonded with her son Barney who is trying to learn how to ride a skateboard and becomes attached to Pistachio's dog The Cuteness, and who is a little confused about what the job entails. The two search the area where Fabbrizio was kidnapped and find one of Bowman's cigars, which is emblazoned with the symbol of the "Turtle Club". To get into the club, Pistachio disguises himself as a man who dresses and acts like a turtle and ends up embarrassing himself and Jennifer. They manage to learn Bowman's name and scheme, as well as that he'll be at an antiques fair the next day.
Pistachio and Jennifer go to the fair, with Pistachio disguised as an elderly woman named Gammy Num-Nums. Pistachio (Gammy Num-Nums) remarks many things to Bowman, such as "You're a tall glass of water, and I just love moisture!" and "We're never going to make babies!". Bowman, ignoring Gammy Num-Nums, invites Jennifer to a party at his house. Pistachio goes to the party disguised as Mr. Peru and starts bugging Bowman (and his waiter, too) while Jennifer looks for clues. Pistachio, as Mr. Peru, gets so much into his character, that he starts dancing on stage. Though Jennifer gets the images, Pistachio causes so much trouble that he's forced to abandon Jennifer when Bowman sends his men after him. Pistachio loses the henchmen by disguising himself as a shark-hunter named Quint and a large cow pie. He uses other disguises, like Constable Mueller and British secret agent Terry Suave, to get Jennifer to safety.
That night, Pistachio and Jennifer look through the clues at a local restaurant, and they deduce that Bowman has forced Fabbrizio to go back to his disguising ways to steal the treasures for Bowman. While there, they find Jennifer's boyfriend Trent cheating on her by being out on a date with Pistachio's former love interest Sophia, who was also involved with Rex. Pistachio then ends up slapping him into submission (after learning moves from his slapping dummy), then leaving with the love-struck Jennifer.
Pistachio takes Jennifer home, when Jennifer kisses Pistachio, leaving him love-struck. Bowman's men kidnap Jennifer as soon as Pistachio leaves and Jennifer is in her home. Barney finds Pistachio talking with his grandfather via pre-recorded hologram and a plan is formed. Pistachio, after hiding in a cherry pie and disguised as a "Cherry Pie Man," breaks into Bowman's house to rescue Jennifer and his parents and stops the auction. But even after defeating Bowman's ninja army, Bowman has one final trick up his sleeve: he has attached a mask of his own face to Fabbrizio's head, making him appear to be Bowman. While the real Bowman escapes, Pistachio is forced to fight his father, who is brainwashed to believe he is Bowman. Grandfather soon arrives to witness Pistachio obtain his first victory.
In the end, Pistachio helps his father snap out his trance by showing off the old habit of putting his underwear on his head, they free "Mama", return the artifacts, Pistachio marries Jennifer, becomes Barney's stepfather and becomes an official Master of Disguise. However, there is one final thing to deal with — Bowman still has the Constitution. Luckily, the Disguiseys locate him in Costa Rica. Disguised as George W. Bush, Pistachio, along with Fabbrizio and his grandfather (who disguised themselves as Bowman's henchmen) defeat Bowman once and for all and retrieve the Constitution by knocking him into a huge swimming pool.
Over the end credits, we see numerous outtakes, deleted scenes, musical numbers and the characters partying along to the soundtrack in between credits. We also see Jennifer dressed in a bridal gown, proving that she is married, or at least engaged, to Pistachio.
In four post-credits scenes, Pistachio is cleaning up his restaurant and he discovers that a dwarfed man who resembles Mario was in the slapping dummy the whole time. The dwarfed man chases Pistachio, and the two have a conversation and say goodbye to the audience. The Cuteness reveals himself to have been Pistachio's grandfather all along.
Why It Sucks
- Incredibly bad jokes and poorly written humor (especially the flatulence humor).
- The character of Pistachio Disguisey (while a nice guy) is very annoying and really stupid. He's too oblivious to know his surroundings in some scenes, constantly happy and creepily smiling with his eyes crossed all throughout the film.
- There are deleted scenes and bloopers throughout the ending credits, all of which are overly long.
- There are constant disguise changes throughout the movie, with each character from the disguise somehow being more annoying than Pistachio himself. One, in particular, is his infamous turtle disguise, in which all he does is shouting the word "turtle" in a Kermit the Frog-like voice for the whole scene.
- To add insult to injury, this particular scene was seen the most in all these advertisements, so this was the main highlight for comedy. What a disappointment.
- Very weird story.
- Poor writing.
- Incredible insulting scenes. One notable example is when Pistachio and his Grandfather is finding an assistant for Pistachio when they find Jennifer, they think she is cute and is a good assistant for Pistachio, but they say that there is just one problem with her, and that is because "her butt is too small".
- Awkward character names, especially for our main protagonists.
- Very anticlimactic final battle, Pistachio doesn't even get to fight Bowman, he only fights his father that is disguised as Bowman.
- No real ending. All that happens is Pistachio scaring Bowman by disguising himself as George W. Bush, pushing Bowman into a pool, and then Bowman farting in the pool.
- It killed Dana Carvey's film career
- Although the film received generally negative feedback, it was a hit.
- The entire story and concept was interesting but was just done wrong.
- Jennifer is a likable character.
- While most of the humor is weak, the running gag where Bowman laughs and farts is pretty funny.
- The soundtrack is decent.
- Kids may laugh at the nonsensical humor.
- The costume designs are pretty nifty.
- The Cuteness is an awesome dog.
- Turtle Guy, was at least, somewhat funny; unlike the other disguises.
The film was panned by critics and audiences. The film holds a 1% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 2.3 out of 10 and a critic consensus that reads "An ill-conceived attempt to utilize Dana Carvey's talent for mimicry, The Master of Disguise is an irritating, witless farce weighted down by sophomoric gags." Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film with a one star and stated "The movie is a desperate miscalculation. It gives porn Dana Carvey nothing to do that is really funny, and then expects us to laugh because he acts so goofy all the time." Matthew Turner of ViewLondon described the film as "a serious contender for The Worst Film Ever Made." and Richard Roeper stated "If The Master of Disguise had been a free cable movie - - well, I still wouldn’t have recommended it." Jim Lane of Sacramento News & Review awarded the film a one star and stated "This pathetic junk is barely an hour long. Nevertheless, it still seems endless."
The Master of Disguise opened up at #3 on its opening weekend with a domestic gross of $12,554,650. It would later make a total domestic gross of $40,388,794. In overseas markets, the film made $3,022,207. Overall, the film made a worldwide gross of $43,411,001 against its $16 million budget.
Awards and nominations
The film was nominated a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress, but lost to Madonna for Die Another Day.
- The Turtle Club scene was filmed on September 11th 2001. When word of the terrorist attacks reached the set, the cast and crew had a moment of silence.
- Dana Carvey made this film for his children because the majority of his projects were not family-friendly.