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Master of Disguise

(2002) * 1/2 Pg
80 min. Columbia. Director: Perry Andelin Blake. Cast: Dana Carvey, James Brolin, Jennifer Esposito, Edie McClurg, Harold Gould.

The comic actor of the moment hit it big on Saturday Night Live with a panoply of memorable personas, floundered in film, then made a huge comeback with a showcase of crazy accented characters. That man, of course, is Mike Myers. He used to work with Dana Carvey, though, who now stars in the family comedy Master of Disguise. Carvey shares with Myers a taste and ability for overwrought character work, but you can smell the flop-sweat on the 46-year-old Carvey's attempt to play a comedic ingénue.

A sort of low-rent Spy Kids with a 46-year-old kid, Master of Disguise introduces the child-like Italian waiter Pistachio Disguisey, who discovers that the family business isn't exactly running an Italian family restaurant. It's more like being, well, masters of disguise. When Pistachio's spy dad (James Brolin!) gets kidnapped by the evil collector Devlin Bowman, Pistachio's granddad (Harold Gould!) teaches him the ropes and hires him a lovely assistant (Jennifer Esposito!). On cue, humorous cameo performers trot through from the worlds of sports, poltics, and entertainment.

On that frayed clothesline of plot hang some very heavy gag premises. The film has a ragged, amateurish rhythm as it moves from one set-up to the next, all providing opportunity for Carvey to suit up as the next character. The slapdash construct occasionally rolls through genuine humor (inexplicably, one of the funnier scenes is the low-key sequence in which Gould and Carvey hire Esposito) but mostly has a fast-food feel that won't bother the littl'uns much.

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