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Movie Review

Presto chango! For hundreds of years the Disguisey family has used its mysterious abilities of—what else?—disguise to provide a better life for the whole of mankind by doing everything from thwarting robberies to fronting for beleaguered presidents. But after a close call with a baron of the black market, Devlin Bowman, Fabbrizio Disguisey decides to put away his wig, mask and latex body suit, and move from Italy to America in order to lead a more peaceful life. Twenty years later and a continent away Fabbrizo’s son, Pistachio, has no knowledge of his family’s history, but he finds himself drawn towards imitation, mimicking the voices and characteristics of almost everyone he meets. Only when his father and mother are kidnapped by the marauding Bowman and his mysterious grandfather appears on his doorstep does Pistachio learn about his family’s past. Now its up to him to mug his way through an excruciatingly large and often painfully unfunny number of personas—ranging from a Hindi prince and an ambulatory cow pie to a disco-dancing fiend and George "Dubbya" Bush—to save his mum and pop. Along for the ride is his brainy and slinky assistant, Jennifer.

positive elements: Despite his many oddities, Pistachio’s parents love him deeply and unconditionally. When he accidentally angers a Texan by mimicking his voice, Fabbrizio stands up for his son and refuses to allow him to be humiliated. Mama Disguisey displays her care by preparing special treats for Pistachio. To rescue his folks, Pistachio braves Bowman, his numerous henchmen and, at one point, scores of vicious ninjas.

Authenticity in relationships is prized. While Jennifer thinks that her boyfriend, Trent, is wonderful with kids, he ridicules her uncoordinated but persevering son, Barney, who constantly tumbles off his skateboard. In contrast, Pistachio accepts the boy and tries to teach him "niceness." At one point, Pistachio resists the affections of an insincere former crush who only shows interest in him after he fends off an angry restaurant-goer with his Disguisey martial arts skills.

There is also a strong distinction between good and evil in The Master of Disguise. The Disguisey family is portrayed as a band of heroes seeking the betterment of humanity through their (often covert and unappreciated) actions. Nothing but contempt is reserved for the racketeering Bowman who plans to steal rare artifacts by having Fabbrizio disguise himself as famous celebrities. (Yes, it is as implausible as it sounds.)

spiritual content: The Disguisey family has more than face paint and false noses on their side when it comes to fighting evil. They rely on an energy force called Energico that allows them to channel the words, skills and ideas of others whenever the need arises. In order to "transform" the Disguiseys must repeat the mantra "Become another person" while "emptying their minds and allowing the Energico to flow." However, Energico has more in common with Obi Wan Kenobi than the Occult. The filmmakers do all but openly admit that Energico is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to The Force. Late in the film, Grandpa Disguisey says that Bowman has caused Fabbrizio to go over to "the dark side" and Pistachio asks, "Just like Star Wars?" A cabalistic-looking emblem pops up from time to time, but its significance is never explained. Pistachio prays to his "Heavenly Father" after his parents are abducted. When Jennifer first appears she says she’s just come from a yoga class.

sexual content: Playing off of Italian-American stereotypes, the men of the Disguisey family are entranced by large posteriors, believing that big-boned women make great wives. Several times the camera lingers on huge (and obviously fake) backsides while Pistachio calls them pet names like "Tush Queen." When Jennifer interviews to become Pistachio’s assistant, Grandpa Disguisey asks for her measurements before he and Pistachio bemoan that her slight frame leaves her "Tush Challenged," without a "Mama Caboose" and with "hindquarters" that are "hideously scrawny." In a post-movie outtake, Bowman tries to thwart Pistachio’s attempts to save his family by distracting him with a cabaret of scantily clad, large-reared dancing women. In another scene, Pistachio accidentally walks in on a couple noisily making out. Many of Jennifer’s outfits are tight with swooping bodices. Pistachio tries to distract Bowman at a party by cavorting with skimpily dressed disco dancers. He asks a waiter carrying an hors d'oeuvre tray for a "little wiener" and "tiny nuts." In another outtake, a representative of "Black Market EBay" asks Bowman if a Master of Disguise can transform into Britney Spears or the Olsen Twins, to which he responds, "You’re a sick man." Pistachio’s pants are pulled down repeatedly revealing his boxers.

violent content: Slapstick is the rule here. The Disguisey family specializes in a form of hand-to-hand combat based strictly on slapping. Grandpa Disguisey tells Pistachio that he should only strike with the flat of his hand because it makes the point, but leaves a person with his dignity. He also says that uttering "Who’s your daddy?" while fighting can demoralize an opponent. Pistachio makes use of both techniques frequently when sparring with bullies, Bowman’s baddies and the remarkably resourceful "Slapping Dummy." Grandpa deals Pistachio a few slaps of his own. Fabbrizio and Mama Disguisey are forcibly kidnapped by Bowman. Flashbacks show Pistachio blowing his hair off in chemistry class and getting yanked into a gym wall by a weight machine. In one bizarre tribute to action films, Pistachio, while dressed as a walking cherry pie (don’t ask), spits a cherry at a guard; the fruit explodes on his forehead like a bloody bullet wound.

crude or profane language: No profanity, but derogatory phrases such as "loser," "idiot," "you make me sick" and "melon-head" appear.

drug and alcohol content: Bowman keeps Mama Disguisey in a trance after the kidnapping by feeding her drugged caramel corn. Social drinking is shown a few times. Bowman smokes cigars.

other negative elements: Bowman breaks wind every time he breaks into maniacal laughter. And like any self-respecting maniac, he laughs a lot. In order to remind his father of his true identity and bring him back from "the dark side," Pistachio rips his underwear out of his "butt crack" and puts it on his head (something he used to do all the time as a child). Although the reference will probably fly over most kids’ heads, Pistachio quotes briefly from Madonna’s "Papa Don’t Preach."

conclusion: Unlike other Saturday Night Live alumni, Dana Carvey has chosen to eschew drug humor (Chris Farley’s Black Sheep), thuggish violence (Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy) and jokes involving metallic genitalia (Mike Myers' Austin Powers in Goldmember). "It’s easy to do raunchy humor," he told USA Today. "But you try leaning over and explaining a masturbation joke to your young son." He’s definitely on the right track. If only he’d tried not to disguise sexual snickering as family entertainment, then fewer parents would want to disappear from the theater.

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Dana Carvey as Pistachio Disguisey; James Brolin as Fabbrizio Disguisey; Edie McClurg as Mama Disguisey; Brent Spiner as Devlin Bowman; Jennifer Esposito as Jennifer; Harold Gould as Grandpa Disguisey; Austin Wolff as Barney; also Bo Derek, Michael Johnson, Jessie Ventura and Jessica Simpson as Themselves


Perry Andelin Blake ( )


Columbia Pictures



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Loren Eaton

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