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The 7 - Random - The Llakor Film Work-Rate Report: The Master of Disguise
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#1 Posted on 26.8.02 0918.28
Reposted on: 26.8.09 0918.34
Why The Master of Disguise Works

You might well ask what Llakor was doing going to a Dana Carvey film, but I have always been a fan of his. As part of a stellar Saturday Night cast, he was always prepared to do whatever was necessary to get laughs. He was brilliant both at impersonations (Bush/Perot) and at developing characters (the Church lady/Garth), but was equally great at getting laughs as himself. He was also very unselfish. While a lot of Saturday Night "characters" tend to come across as a comedic joke, Carvey was always willing to go to the next level and disappear totally into the character. Compare Adam Sandler "doing" the Opera Guy to Dana Carvey "becoming" the Church Lady. Garth is the prime example of Carvey's total unselfishness as he made himself both unrecognizeable and ridiculous in the interest of furthering Mike Myer's career. Plus, Carvey has done two films that I enjoyed tremendously, the con-man comedy Opportunity Knocks and the fantabulous private eye comedy Clean Slate in which Carvey loses his memory every time he goes to sleep, a kind of comedic predictor of Momento, if you will.

In addition, I had a free ticket, and it was either this or The Kid Stays in the Picture, which I do want to see, but it started later. I also saw the film with a small crowd of mainly kids who were charmed by the film's comedic digs at villain Brent Spiner's flatulence. As a result, I saw the film under very favourable conditions.

All of that said, I am not entirely sure why The Master of Disguise does work. Lord knows, it starts out badly enough with the (wait for it... wait for it...) obligatory Llakor kryptonite: obtrusive and unnecessary voice-over narration. The idea of the film is that Dana Carvey is a member of the Disguisey family, a family of heroic disguise artists, but that Fabrizzio (James Brolin) has decided not to train Dana, his only son, Pistachio Disguisey, in the family business opting instead to train him as an Italian waiter in their family restaurant, because Italian waiter is such a step-up career-wise from being a hero. Saddled with a ridiculous name and the world's most ridiculous Italian accent, Pistachio is further socially hampered by his strange heriditary urges: to disguise himself, to mimic other people's accents and to be attracted to women with incredibly large asses. The movie misses a sure bet here, as instead of affecting his distracting Italian accent, it would have been much more interesting if Pistachio always spoke in the accent of the person to whom he was talking. On the plus side, the film does stoop to mining the most out of the Disguisey big butt fascination including a brillant sequence where Pistachio and his Grandfather mock Jennifer Esposito for her tiny ass.

The plot picks up when Brent Spiner kidnaps Fabrizzio and Mama Pistachio and Pistachio learns of his family destiny from his long-lost Grandpa. Not much hilarity ensues as Pistachio's training begins A Master of Disguise would seem to be a role which matches all of Dana Carvey's strengths, but the entire film seems determined to sink into a quagmire of embarrassing suck capped off when Jennifer Esposito, Pistachio's beautiful assistant Jennifer Baker finds a cigar from the exclusive Turtle Club, and Pistachio decides to infiltrate the club as a Turtle Man, a cringe-worthy decision.

And yet, and yet, and yet... somehow the film finds its footing. It may be as a result of an Andy Kaufman-esque decision to keep repeating the same bad joke over and over again until the repetition itself becomes funny where the joke itself would never be. It may be because I saw the film with a crowd that was bound and determined to laugh at everything and it took a while for me to abandon my grumpy misanthropy enough to join them. I am not certain, but I can pin-point with a degree of certainty the moment that I stopped dreading the movie and started rooting for it.

Pistachio and Jennifer have crashed a party being given by Brent Spiner's villain Bowman, Pistachio disguised as a hirsute Italian swinger, who becomes so annoying that Spiner orders his goons to bum-rush him off the property, so that he can drool over Jennifer in peace. As the goons give chase, they come across Pistachio disquised in a rowboat in the middle of the gold-fish pond as Robert Shaw playing Quint from Jaws. Carvey proceeds to masterfully butcher Shaw's dialogue from Jaws completely gulling the henchmen until one of them asks to see Quint's arm to see the tattoo from the Indianappolis and Pistachio's incredibly hairy arm blows the disguise. Now this in and of itself is a charming bit designed to enthrall a cinema geek like myself, but it wasn't enough to make me buy into the movie. When the goons pursue Pistachio into a field of cows, I immediately assumed that Pistachio had disguised himself as a cow, and lost interest, lamenting that Jim Carrey had already used that joke with a hippo in Ace Ventura II. One of the goons steps in a cow pie, and they give up the chase until Pistachio stands up revealing that he was disguised... as the cow pie! They proceed to reenact the chase scene from Hard Day's Night for the one millionth time with Pistachio disguised the entire time... as a cow pie, and I got it, as the movie finally clicked into funny.

It's possible that I am just a little slow on the uptake, but what I finally understood is that the movie was never trying for the remotest semblance of even the loose logic of most comedies. This was a movie determined from the get-go to drive off the Cliffs of Insanity into the Sea of Shreiking Eels. A film determined to pursue no logic other than it's own Raold Dahl-esque kiddie logic. Well, of course, Pistachio can disguise himself a steaming pile of cow shit, he is a Master of Disguise isn't he? In this context, everything, Pistachio's ridiculous accent, the bizarre Disguisey training rituals, Brent Spiner's flatulence, everything works in a bizarro world where the logic only makes sense if you can see the film through the eyes of a six-year old.

In this context, I can only criticize the film-makers for not going bizarre enough, fast enough, and for not making their intentions clearer. If the movie had started with Dana Carvey telling the tale to his son, the film's intrinsic kiddie logic might have been more obvious. I should also mention that this is a film where you should stay for the entire credits, as the best jokes of the film play during and after the credits.

Llakor, that Lousy Canuck
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Tom Dean
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#2 Posted on 29.8.02 1432.00
Reposted on: 29.8.09 1449.10
You should post this to Rotten Tomatoes. Then they would have TWO of 68 positive reviews of the movie. Assuming that your review is "positive", that is. I'm still trying to figure that part out.
Lap cheong
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#3 Posted on 30.8.02 0750.03
Reposted on: 30.8.09 0759.05
You are not Dean dear sir.

Fuzzy Logic
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#4 Posted on 30.8.02 1241.23
Reposted on: 30.8.09 1243.47
Dean is like Sancho.

Is david hasslehoff Dean? No, dean is dean.
Is Scott Baio Dean? no, dean is dean.
Are you Dean? No, dean is dean.
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