As you may or may not know I recently completed a cinematic test of endurance by watching Dana Carvey’s infamous 2002 film The Master of Disguise for 21 consecutive days.
My initial motivation for this marathon was to win a bet with my girlfriend. She said I couldn’t possibly get through three weeks of one of the worst reviewed movies in cinematic history. Despite her doubts I knew that I was crazy enough to relish in this sort of thing. Not only did I end up winning the bet, but I also ended up writing a rather in-depth blog that documented my experience throughout this endeavor, provided musings and criticism of the film, and contained writings that used the movie as a source of inspiration for philosophical meandering and creative purposes. I used this Sisyphus like task as an opportunity for self-development and mastery of a subject. Simply put— I became The Master of The Master of Disguise.
This project has since taken on a life of its own and I am now looking to take things WAY further. I recently received approval to begin fundraising through Kickstarter to re-create the Master of Disguise into a new “Master’s Cut.” My goal is to fulfill the promise of the original film and improve the areas where it fell short. I have written about these proposed edits in depth on The Master of The Master of Disguise blog which I implore you to read more about. I am sure you will be entertained. (http://themasterofthemasterofdisguise.tumblr.com/post/36983964994/viewing-17-announcing-the-masters-cut)
As crazy as it sounds, I am attempting to make at least a $16,000,000 major motion picture through crowd-sourcing with no experience in film whatsoever. Obviously this is slightly ridiculous and the odds are against us. However, if we were to succeed we would collectively make some rather absurd history together. If you are able to donate to the Kickstarter I would greatly appreciate your contribution to this important yet silly project. You are only charged if the project is approved (which is probably less likely than winning the lottery) so it is a rather low risk commitment. If it does somehow make 16 million dollars, I promise it will be worth it.
Thank you! Yours in the cause of disguise,
Jacob Nathan (The Master of The Master of Disguise)
I’ve made it to the end of my long and arduous journey. After one more viewing I will have fulfilled the obligation of the initial bet and have successfully watched The Master of Disguise for 21 consecutive days. Not only that, I will have also exceeded the parameters necessary in order to win by successfully keeping an in depth account of my experience watching the film and by providing deep analysis. I truly hope that you, my reader, have learned something by experiencing what I went through vicariously through this blog. There is much to be learned from this timeless film about identity, relationships, philosophy, comedy and also many technical details about how one should not shoot a movie. I feel that I have grown a lot through this test of endurance and hope that you have as well alongside me. Speaking personally, I have become better at examining minutiae, at waxing poetic about virtually anything, and most importantly about learning how to focus on the positive in order to get by (or at least ironically focus on the negative thereby transforming it into a positive). I also learned how to accept ritual into everyday life and find a way to transform potentially crippling monotony into a fruitful experience on a daily basis. As insane as it may sound, I am not lying when I say that somehow this ended up being a productive and positive time period in my life.
So while this project has reached its end there are also new beginnings. The time has come to take this project in new directions. My new status as the world’s foremost expert on the film also means that I have inherited a great deal of responsibility in furthering the cause of the movie. In the upcoming days I hope to receive approval from Kickstarter to begin fundraising for The Master Cut—a new Master of Disguise movie made by none other than The Master of The Master of Disguise himself. I hope that after following these posts you see the value in such an endeavor and choose to contribute to the film’s production. I also plan on releasing a commentary track for the film as my culminating post. It might be a couple days before I have found a way to record and post it, but stay tuned! I hope it will provide a “different” look into the film. So if you find yourself sad that this time has ended, worry not. We will carry on ceaselessly into the future.
We’ve come a long way. To think it was three weeks long weeks ago that I proclaimed like Pistachio, “I’m going to be a Master of Disguise!” is astounding. Despite what might be expected, I do anticipate watching this movie again, perhaps even many times. When I do, I am sure it will remind me of this very interesting period of time. A time of self-discovery in young adulthood, when as Pistachio so aptly put it in the film, “there are so many voices in my head that I don’t know who I am.” Though the future is uncertain and I don’t have destiny set in stone like the Disguiseys, I can take solace in knowing that I made a promise that was fulfilled and that if someone sets their mind on mastery, it can be achieved. I said I would do it and I did. I stand before you:
THE MASTER OF THE MASTER OF DISGUISE
Until next time, Yours in the cause of disguise.
I am now a level 6,327 Doctor of Disguise!
BAM! SECOND UPGRADE! Now a level 6,667 DOCTOR OF DISGUISE. One away from Mastery.
I’ve been sleeping little and working a lot lately. Not to mention cranking out 10 pages on the Master of Disguise while working. As result, I was dozing in and out of consciousness both during a doom metal show I worked yesterday (note that this is the second doom show mentioned in this blog about The Master of Disguise) and during my recent viewing of movie. Both situations produced fucked up dreams.
I swear to God this is what my Master of Disguise dream consisted of:
Dana Carvey came into a downtown café and ordered a Cappuccino from me. The thing is that I wasn’t the barista. I was writing a blog about The Master of Disguise. He then yelled SURPRISE!!!! And Devlin Bowman said, from the heavens, “my men are ready to pounce on my command.” (I am pretty sure that’s where I was in the movie during the dream and his dialogue just bled through into my subconscious). Concerned about Devlin I asked Dana what we should do and he said, “Quickly!” We jumped into the screen of my laptop and all of a sudden we were in the lobby of a Raddison Hotel and there was some sort of furry convention going on. I woke up from my dream and the movie was at the scene where Jennifer was meeting Pistachio at the job interview. Woah. That was weird. Strangely enough this is the first Master of Disguise related dream that I can remember during this 18 day span.
I have also started applying for a Kickstarter project to fund the 20mil Master Cut of the Master of Disguise. FINGERS CROSSED!!!
There’s another big announcement! When I get to the big 21st day of watching the film I am going to celebrate my mastery by creating a audio commentary track for the movie! Master’s commentary so to speak.
THAT’S THE GOOD WORD FRIENDS IN DISGUISE!
I am now a BROWN BELT level 5,994 Doctor of Disguise (thanks for NOT pointing out to me that 7,000 / 21 is not 300 and hence all my earlier ranks are off—GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!)
Rather than behave like a total curmudgeon in the manner of all the critics I just posted about, I am instead going to cultivate a positive mental attitude. That’s right, I am going to offer constructive criticism. How can we expect The Master of Disguise to improve next time if we don’t offer friendly, affirming advice to point out the things that we thought could have changed for the movie for the better? You might be saying to yourself, “But Jacob, there won’t be a next time. They had their chance and blew it. The film essentially killed Dana Carvey’s career and Perry Andelin Blake hasn’t directed a film since.” Let me assuage your worries with a big announcement.
The Master of The Master of Disguise is starting a fundraising campaign to make The Master of Disguise: The Master’s Cut. Starting today “we” have opened a massive crowdsourcing campaign to raise $20,000,000 for a new Master of Disguise Film (Original budget was 16m). This film will not be a sequel, but rather a remake and re-edit of the original. Yes, yes, certain scenes will have to be reshot. New scenes will have to be added. We might unfortunately even have to recast certain cast members. A lot will be different, and we have a formidable amount of work ahead to fund raise in order to create the change we need. In the end it will all be worth it.
Haven proven myself as the world’s foremost expert on the film, I think that Columbia Pictures will feel comfortable entrusting me with this very special project. I am certain they have been intending to recreate the film for years and were just waiting for the right person to come along and take things by the reigns. Well I have arrived and I assure you that the final result will be one of the funniest, most poignant films in cinematic history. It won’t just be my doing—that would be a ridiculous claim! The film wasn’t THAT far away from being palatable originally so it just needs some fine-tuning to get it to its optimal level. Let me tell you my vision for The Master’s Cut.
ADDITIONS and RE-ENVISIONED SCENES:
More! More! The Master of Disguise left us begging for more. Just 80 minutes? No toy guy scene? A rushed ending? I would take the time to let things play out properly. Here are some of the scenes that would need to be added.
• The patrons in the restaurant who sit listlessly after Pistachio spills spaghetti all over them would be given another scene where they mercilessly verbally abuse Pistachio. Pistachio would be on the brink of tears in his daddy’s restaurant. This would be a no holds barred lashing they would cut deep into his psyche. It would allow the viewer to empathize with Pistachio to a greater degree. The scene would blend into the Texan Patrons bit so that by the time Pistachio’s father intervenes it would be a truly tender and heart wrenching moment of paternal care and loyalty.
• Shortly after the restaurant scene, Pistachio witnesses his crush “The Tush Queen” and his new rival Oversized Waiter Rex making out in an alleyway. This scene would be amended to a full-nudity-somewhat-graphic-fellatio scene. This wouldn’t be superfluous. It would make the innocence of Pistachio all the more real. He is a very sensitive and emotionally underdeveloped adult and this scene would serve as a catalyst for him and the viewer realizing this. It would also make Pistachio more believable as a sexual being because right now no one is buying that he could ultimately bang Jennifer Esposito. Most importantly it would make the sexual undertones of the movie jump more prominently into the forefront. Forget the FCC. This is art.
• The scenes reliving the Disguisey family story throughout various historical periods will be altered to provide either more hilarity or to give more credibility to the notion that the family has a history of fighting evil. This means that the worst scene in the movie (the Abe Lincoln dance sequence) will be replaced with a Disguisey unearthing the Harding Teapot Dome Scandal! How thrilling! We will also depict Disguiseys breaking the bonds of slavery through their covert work on the Underground Railroad, assassinating ruthless dictator Pol Pot, and framing CIA director David Petraeus in a hilarious sex scandal! We have done a complete 180 degree turn here and now provided a very real historical context of justice.
• Devlin Bowman’s running fart gag will be re-imagined as a debilitating cough that sometimes makes him spit up blood. This will remove a pretty shamelessly crackbrained motif in favor of one that provides more philosophical reinforcement to the film. Is Bowman terminally ill and trying to realize his greatest aspirations before expiring? The viewer would also become strongly empathic towards our tormented anti-hero and it would make us question our unwavering praise of the Disguisey way.
• There would be an addendum to the Prince Lamyjama snake charmer sequence where a riveting dialogue concerning racial stereotyping occurs. The grandfather upon seeing Pistachio’s initial attempt at becoming this Indian character will deliver a swift Disguisey slap while saying something along the lines of, “you blithering fool! Becoming another person requires more than blackface and an accent! Any clansmen can do that! You must channel a person’s essence through Energico, you must find your common humanity!” This would help clarify any concerns about the filmmakers being ignorant pricks. While almost all of this scene would deviate from the original, the Kenny G flute sequence must stay EXACTLY THE SAME. That shit is gold.
While we are on the topic of reworking problematic discourses… Jennifer would be given additional screen time to show her struggling to support her son Barney. In the Master Cut she is now shown to actually give a damn about Barney rather than letting him wander the city left to his own devices and a dog. She would be given more dialogue to demonstrate that she is aware of her failed relationships with abusive monsters and that she is in charge of her own destiny—consciously making the decision to sacrifice to make ends meet. This wed shed more light on her struggle and make her seem less cluelessly victimized. Hopefully we can also make her in control of her own sexuality because everyone would be grateful if we can work in some tasteful nudity as well. This is after all a blockbuster motion picture.
• Recreate the slap dummy sequences so Pistachio is shown undergoing intense soul searching method acting classes with Marlon Brando, grueling MMA combat lessons with legendary UFC personality Chael Sonnen, and receiving camouflage and disguise lessons like the ones in that part of the Hunger games. The time frame of this montage should be clarified to show that 2-3 years have passed, thus making Pistachio’s rise to a Master of Disguise more believable and implying that his relationship with Jennifer has had time to grow during this span (oh, I should mention we will introduce Jennifer prior to Pistachio’s training in order to achieve this).
now THIS is a sensei
• The “who, what, where, why, how” dance number with Pistachio and the Grandpa will either get turned into a full blown musical number with insane choreography and a thousand dancing extras or omitted entirely. It will depend on budgetary constraints.
• Gammy Num Nums and Turtle Guy will be given more lines in their scenes. Additional scenes would be overkill, but a few more jokes inserted would capitalize on these two clearly beloved characters.
• Erick Avari, who portrayed the cigar maker in the Turtle Club, will be turned into Devlin Bowman’s personal assistant and right hand man. Avari was quietly one of the best actors in the film and could provide a new and interesting dynamic as Bowman’s acolyte.
• The cowpie scene barely survives the cut… but maybe we rework it where Pistachio is shown gasping for air hiding out under the grassy disguise for hours. This would help the audience believe in his willingness to sacrifice for his cause.
• The entire soundtrack is revamped. Metallica will now play the Master of Disguise pt.1 in the fashion of Master of Puppets. Frank Ocean will team with posthumous samples of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke to form a new soulfully romantic super hit for the love sequences. Mark Mothersbough will provide the score instead of wasting “Whip It” in the interview scene. The picture will rely on magical sounding orchestral work with a contemporary flare instead of horrendously out of touch pop songs.
• The Cuteness will be added to every single scene in the movie that Pistachio appears in. This dog was such an incredible asset so it’s a crying shame that he wasn’t used in such a gratuitous manner to begin with! He should be a full-blown sidekick dog a la Snowy in Tin Tin. This dog is probably 244 in dog years now so we might unfortunately need to recast him. At the very least we could use CGI to throw him in there should we be unable to find a suitable replacement. This serves as a nice segue into discussing the cast…
Sadly, some of the original cast won’t be joining us for the Master Cut. I apologize to any of the actors who may be offended. Take solace in knowing that you ALMOST made the cut but that expectations for this project are extremely high and competition was fierce. Now let’s introduce the new cast.
• Ryan Gosling is The Master of Disguise.
Hah! Just kidding. Dana Carvey IS this movie. He is indispensible to the film and delivered a wonderfully underrated and often misunderstood performance. I just mostly wanted to write the sentence “Ryan Gosling is the Master of Disguise.” Imagine that! Horrendous! The other two notable cast members who get to stay are Harold Guild and Jennifer Esposito. They managed to rise above the ensemble in this film (perhaps that doesn’t say a whole lot…).
• Burt Reynolds as Fabbrizio Disguisey.
James Brolin was clearly only cast in this role because the casting call read, “Caucasian man in 50-60s must look like Burt Reynolds.” This time we will get the best Burt Reynolds available. Burt Reynolds.
• Patrick Stewart as Devlin Bowman.
The creators got it right casting a member of Star Trek: The Next Generation as the film’s super villain. However, they gave the job to the wrong cast member! Captain Jean-Luc Picard seems far better suited to the task. Stewart’s background in Shakespearian theatre better suits him to the task of conveying the complex internal dilemmas that Bowman possesses in his attempt to realize his will-to-power. Additionally Stewart has a cool British accent, which is always a plus for a super villain.
• Haley Joel Osment circa 1999 as Barney Baker.
No disrespect to Austin Wolff, but Haley is the finest young actor of a generation. Unfortunately he is now 24 so this will present some complications. It’s a good thing that the original makeup team won an artist guild award because we are going to need all of them back to pull this role off. Also, Haley will have to be a little less serious and creepy than he was in The Sixth Sense.
• Mike Myers as a new character who is Pistachio’s only friend and equally lovable loser.
Casting Myers as Carvey’s sidekick would reverse their Wayne’s World dynamic. The two clearly have chemistry, and it would finally allow Carvey to silence his critics that proclaimed The Master of Disguise a failed version of Austin Powers. Myers owes it to Carvey to return the favor and curb his ego as a sidekick. It’s also not believable that Pistachio hadn’t a single friend growing up. This character amends that. Myers wouldn’t need to stick around the whole movie, but he’d at least be present until Pistachio undergoes training and meets Jennifer. He could then play the best man at their wedding.
While we are discussing Austin Powers:
• Jay Roach as director.
Roach proved to be successful in the slapstick goonery genre through his work in the Austin Powers franchise. He could apply satire and spoofing far more comically that any bozo at Happy Madison could and would provide Carvey with better opportunity to shine as the film’s protagonist. He made Myers look good so it should be no hard task to showcase Carvey’s gifts. However, should we decide to take a more sophisticated and philosophically complex approach—Sofia Coppola, Roman Polanski or Christopher Nolan will suffice in the director’s chair.
• Fight choreography team replaced with the one from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
BAM! The action sequences just got WAY more enjoyable.
It’s true. As much as it pains me to say it, my beloved Master of Disguise does have some flaws. Certain parts simply must go. In fact, I was going to attempt to make a Master’s Cut simply by cutting all of the scene’s I deemed unworthy, but I realized that the film would clock in at 37 minutes and the narrative would be extremely hard to follow. That’s what started the fundraising effort. We have to do this right! We must cut and add to achieve proper balance.
For this cutting section I don’t want to be overly harsh and this entry is already 5 pages long, so I will simply list what is getting the axe. I am sure I have discussed most of these issues in previous posts.
•cut the baby’s audio saying, “I slap you” in the flashback sequence
•During Pistachio saying of the Tush Queen “she will be a great cook” cut the butt shot. Actually just cut all of them.
•cut Shrek imitation
•cut the Madonna reference, it’s a waste of $ anyway.
• No exorcist reference
• Uh oh a pattern is emerging…. Just cut all the damn references. Except Jaws.
• cut all giant coin swipey things that transition scenes
• cut nose biting CGI scene in the Turtle Club, Adam Sandler will have NO impact on this film
• cut slap dummy pantsing Pistachio
• cut Gammy’s backstreet boy line/Malcom in the middle line
• cut village name joke in Mr. Peru scene. Das Racist.
• cut dance scene at mansion. Cut all dance scenes.
• Jessica Simpson is cut. If we go with the celebrity appearances Beyoncé or Taylor Swift will take Jessica Simpson’s place and WWE Champion CM Punk will replace Jesse Ventura
I have 15 more pages of cuts but I hope these examples provide enough of a basis for you to realize my editorial eye is worthy of this project.
Tell your friends! Sound the alarm! We will reclaim The Master of Disguise! DONATE TO THE MASTER OF DISGUISE MASTER CUT!
While I might be the only person to have watched this movie for 16 consecutive days, I am certainly not the only person to critically “analyze” the film. I use the quotations to indicate that much of this supposed “criticism” that exists in print is lackadaisical and half-witted. Most major film critics didn’t include more than a paragraph and a single star in their encapsulation of a film that deals with complex subject matter. Maybe they felt the movie didn’t even warrant their attention. Maybe they tried to cut corners when they they felt that the film wass doing the same. Maybe they are sitting pretty on their high horse of petty judgement and are truly despicable creatures who are incapable of true joy. Maybe The Master of Disguise is so truly brilliant that it figured out the right code of iconoclasm to completely ostracize the film community. Regardless of what caused this film to exist in a critical black hole (it boats an incredible 1% on Rottentomatoes), I will now review its reviews that still available online. Many of them have 404d given that this movie was made in the heyday of Angelfire and Geocities (where, hilariously, many of the reviews from prominent media publications were hosted). Technological obscurity be damned, I say! I tried to dig up what I could find. Let’s see what these terrible humans have to say.
JONATHAN ROSENBAUM - THE CHICAGO READER: "Imagine combining bad imitations of the Ace Ventura and Austin Powers movies and you’ll have a rough idea of this feeble Dana Carvey farce about an Italian-American named Pistachio Disguisey who, like his father and grandfather, is supposedly a master impersonator. The movie has to enlist Bo Derek and Jesse Ventura to achieve “imitations” of them, and George W. Bush in the flesh would have been much funnier than this movie’s impersonation. The only time I chuckled was when Carvey tried to approximate a giant turtle. Percy Andelin Blake directed; with Jennifer Esposito, Mark Devine, and Harold Gould"
Well, at least he liked the Turtle. He over simplified the plot a bit (well, maybe not a whole lot). I don’t think it’s fair to say that the film is just bad Ace Ventura and Austin powers impressions— that’s not very nice. Give Dana some due props. This review is lazy. He would have been better suited to just say DON’T SEE ITbecause that appears to be all he is trying to accomplish with this rushed piece.
Lisa Schwarzbaum - Entertainment Weekly "The Master of Disguise is an awful comedy assembled out of rusty spare parts. Dana Carvey stars as Pistachio Disguisey, the scion of a family of annoying men with fake Italian accents, who masters the art of mimicry and thwarts a farting villain (Brent Spiner).”
That’s it? Did you get paid to write this? If I handed in a 3rd grade essay as detailed as this shit I wouldn’t have made the 4th grade. Poor effort.
PETER TRAVERS - ROLLING STONE: "Sometimes Hollywood studios won’t show certain films to reviewers. It’s a kind of damage control. If critics don’t get an early peek at such nonstarters as Juwanna Man, The Crocodile Hunter, Like Mike or Scooby-Doo, they can’t spread the toxic word until after the opening weekend. Thank the gods, then, for trailers, which reveal glaring faults in just a few quick scenes that are meant to be seductive. Take Master of Disguise, the Dana Carvey comedy that Columbia Pictures kept from critics as long as possible. The trailer for the movie practically shouts, “Let the buyer beware!”
The talented Carvey, justly celebrated for his up-to-the-nanosecond mimicry on Saturday Night Live, has trapped himself in a musty time warp. As Italian waiter Pistachio Disguisey, descended from a spy family of master masqueraders, we see Carvey in a quick series of costumes: fat man, cherry pie, turtle. He even morphs into the Al Pacino of Scarface, a two-decade-old reference sure to draw appreciative chuckles from the kid audience for whom this PG-rated farce is intended. We even glimpse parodies of The Exorcist, Jaws and The Karate Kid. From the looks of the trailer, Master of Disguise could have been the most topical comedy of 1975.”
I appreciate Peter’s inside glance to how production studios hide their atrocities from the critical eye. He also echoes the sentiment of a good friend of mine, who when I told him I was undertaking this project, said that he “couldn’t even watch the trailer.” Peter is spot on when he says that many of the references are dated and more topical if it were a film from 1975. I agree that much of the homages are simply off-putting. That being said, Peter clearly didn’t watch the movie. So he fails by default.
Kim Linekin - eye WEEKLY
"The Master of Disguise is awful. It’s Pauly Shore awful. Don’t say you weren’t warned."
COME ON KIM. NOTHING IS PAULY SHORE AWFUL. When I was once driving cross country with some friends we picked up a Pauly Shore standup tape, listened to about 45 seconds, glanced at one another, and then immediately threw it onto the highway. This review is wrong. Nothing compares to what I heard in the car that fateful day.
At first glance this is what a scathing review of the film should look like. Bridget hits all the key points of where the film fails— when she says that the film is “too busy making references to other films to have a heart of its own” she makes a good point. I disagree however in that I feel the film is actually uniquely insane and that this slew of bad references are truly exceptional— even if exceptionally bad. Bridget is also correct that Esposito and Gould manage to avoid looking foolish despite all the nonsense surrounding them. However, I grow offended when she says this has nothing that resonates with a viewer. Are you soulless Bridget? Did you not get all of the existential humanist undertones? And you call yourself a fucking critic.You are a robot.
Hire an archivist you nitwit! I can only find the summary of your review because everything else is a review of The Master! Get your priorities straight! You are one of the most famed critics in the nation and you don’t make your review of this seminal film available? A Disgusting display of incompetency.
On one hand this review offers some awesomely bombastic claims such as “Disguise has distinguished itself as the summer’s worst movie” and that Pistachio Disguisey is “one of the sorriest monikers in comedy history.” However, the review makes to many comparisons of Carvey to his Wayne’s World partner Mike Myers and continues to further the critical trend of comparing The Master of Disguise to Austin Powers. On a side note— I like Garth way more than Wayne. This review depresses me. Stop portraying Dana Carvey as inferior to Mike Myers. He’s not! It’s an irrelevant point to make. How about I compare your shitty review, Claudia, to Richard Roeper’s review. You don’t like that much do you? You’ll never live up to his standards for reviews of shitty movies. And I didn’t even get to read his! Jerk.
Felix Vasquez Jr - Cinema Crazed I don’t know how this guy even made it onto rottentomatoes as a critic. His blog appears to be no more legitimate than my own. Despite that, I’d like to think that I’d avoid saying such juvenile stupidity as, “Jennifer Esposito who stars as his assistant is really hot.” Then again, looking at my film notes from my second viewing I just found “Jennifer is really hot.” Fuck. I don’t like what this review makes me discover about myself.
I am sure Mickey won’t mind if I spin this review into a passing grade by misquoting, misrepresenting and taking everything he said out of context. This will at least set an example for any future critic of the Master of Disguise.
”It’s a measure of this movie’s…genuinely… funny…distinct…characters that it is… even more amazing… for people who are particular fans of its star, Dana Carvey.
Carvey plays an Italian immigrant, Pistachio, with a gift for complete transformation that he’s inherited from his father Frabbrizio (James Brolin). But at the start of the movie he’s a waiter in an Italian restaurant. He trips, and several plates of spaghetti go flying, landing on the heads of diners. After fumbling for a few seconds, he tries to make amends by sprinkling the diners’ heads with Parmesan cheese. (note: I didn’t have to change this paragraph! Good job Mickey)
Pistachio inhabits a kind of zone between contemptible imbecile and sensitive bumbler. He’s … someone to laugh at, and he’s…someone to laugh with.
The movie is (partly) an excuse for Carvey to don these personae.. and… they all (p)ack (I’ll assume the l was a type-o) incisiveness and satirical punch.
The disguise gimmick is also an excuse for a number of celebrity cameos, which culminate in a mask being pulled off to reveal Frabbrizio. The most interesting cameo is that of Bo Derek who appears in her “10” outfit from 1979,
looking slightly better than she did 23 years ago. In a movie about transformation, Derek shows that… transforming can sometimes be… amazing.
I’ve been so engrossed in unearthing the philosophy of the Master of Disguise that I have been neglecting to examine the impact the film is making on my day-to-day life. The lack of awareness dawned on me as I was listening to the legendary GZA “The Genius” of the Wu Tang Clan deliver a lecture on how science has influenced his art. Throughout the entire time I was noticing that I kept drawing parallels between his anecdotes about discovering hip-hop in the South Bronx and the Master of Disguise. This is when I pondered if I was going a little crazy. I even thought of asking GZA if he had seen the movie when I was sitting next to him before the lecture. Here I was, sitting next to one of my many music idols, and I wanted to talk to him about Dana Carvey. Why?
It would be easy to declare that my propensity for bringing up the movie in virtually every social situation I am in on a day-to-day basis was a result of the amount of time I have spent watching it. However, I believe that there is more to it. People spend tons of hours at work and they don’t always incessantly blab about it to their friends during their leisure time (at least the people who aren’t incredibly irritating to spend time with). There has to be something in the content of the film that is resonating with me at such amplitude that it can’t be ignored. I think it is that the movie is universal; it reaches the lowest common denominator. As a result, it’s easy to find everyday situations in which the movie pops up in my mind. Like at a GZA lecture. GZA talks about how we are all made of the same matter as stars and the rest of the universe? I think of Energico. How could I not? At this point if you have been following this blog you can tell that I am finding a lot of value in this film. That’s a good thing right? Finding value where others don’t? Don’t ask yourself why I am doing this to myself. The better question is why aren’t YOU thinking about the Master of Disguise all of the time. I don’t have a problem. I’m not crazy! You’re the one who’s crazy!
Sure—I get it’s weird to watch the Master of Disguise 21 days in a row and keep an in depth blog about it. I understand why certain friends send me emails saying, “please don’t do too many more of these. For your sake.” It’s weird. It’s atypical behavior. But I find it incredibly grounding. We all need a basis from which we perceive the everyday events in our lives. It’s like zero-ing out a scale. One can’t read the weight of the world when you don’t know what zero is. This movie is my zero. If this is the lowest of the low—yet I am able to read so far deeply into it, than surely it will allow me to read more into the rest of my human experience. So as you read this feeling as though I am a mini-martyr for your enjoyment, don’t ask yourself why I am doing this. Ask YOURSELF why you AREN’T doing this.
I’M A LEVEL 4500 PROFESSOR OF DISGUISE. I NOW HAVE A BLUE BELT!
Viewing 14: Everything and Nothing- Zen and the Art of Disguise
“Sometimes there are so many voices in my head, I don’t know who I am”
— Pistachio Disguisey
It is a predicament that everyone faces. What comprises one’s identity—one’s self? What does it mean to be Pistachio Disguisey, what does it mean to be Jacob Nathan, what does it mean to be XXX? We can’t help but perceive the world from the constricting lens of our self and this often seems incomplete or insincere somehow. As agnostic Buddhist Stephen Batchelor describes, “It has taken four billion years of evolution to generate this kind of organism with this kind of brain, and yet we wake up in the morning and feel bored.” This is phenomenal! Think of how many different miniscule events went in to comprising who you are at this very moment—not just at a molecular level, but also in terms of the heterogeneous material that comprises this entity you call your self. This includes experiences, memories, interactions, and changes in body chemistry.
It’s extraordinarily complex and fascinating but that doesn’t mean that we can’t help but sometimes feel discomfort within our selves. Pistachio has become dissatisfied with his existence because he has become attached and fixated on the “Self.” It is only when Pistachio begins to discover his true calling as the Master of disguise that he is capable of overcoming the limits and boundaries of the self. Channeling Energico through a Zen-like repetitive mantra of “become another person, become another person, become another person…” he channels compassion and empathy. The word “disguise” doesn’t do this practice justice. It implies a cover up or concealing of the self. Instead, it’s best to think of Pistachio’s use of Energico as a way for him to see absolute truth. Rather than view the world limited within his own mind, Pistachio is able to truly perceive the connection that binds him to all sentient beings and the universe. Pistachio is able to realize the phenomenon that Kalu Rinpoche discusses saying:
“We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”
In eliminating himself and becoming another person he taps into the Energico that unites us all—the same energy that makes reincarnation possible. Pistachio is one with us all—he is nothing and everything.
I established in the previous post on philosophy that Pistachio and the rest of the Disguisey’s were doing God’s work. The Buddhist influence in the film is notable, and it only reinforces the notion that GOD IS ENERGICO. With this knowledge I shall start the church of Disguisey. Who’s joining?
LEVEL 4,200 FINE ARTISAN OF DISGUISE. 2/3 OF THE WAY TO BECOMING THE MASTER!
Viewing 13: God vs The Existential-Humanist Philosophy of The Master of Disguise
Now that I have advanced to becoming a red belt in my effort to become the world’s foremost expert on the Master of Disguise, I feel more qualified to comment on what I feel are the main philosophical tenets of the movie. This will perhaps be the most “academic” writing about this particular film in the history of the world. I feel this philosophical breakdown is important to share. It is truly groundbreaking research. We will learn a lot about ourselves through this careful dissection, and in the process we will learn about the human condition. My philosophical reading of The Master of Disguise consists of two major tenets: The film as a theological allegory and the film as a meditation on destiny vs. free will. (author’s note note: the film’s Eastern explorations on the self will be explored in a future post. This post is devoted to Western philosophy)
The most important example of the film fearlessly diving into the theological realm is after Pistachio’s home has been ransacked. Like many others before him, Pistachio turns to the mercy of God in a state of desperation. He falls to his knees and prays, “I promise never to mock you again” and “I don’t know what to do” repeatedly until he passes out in a state of shock and panic. Some evangelist asshole named Dr. Ray Pritchard calls such behavior “the gift of desperation.” He claims that in times such as the situation Pistachio is in that, “God has so emptied you that you have nothing left but God. In that terrifying moment you either turn to God or you die.” This despair is evident in Pistachio. Even the police won’t help him and think he is lying when he explains the situation to them. He has nothing left but the faith he didn’t know he possessed prior to the catastrophe. Fortunately for Pistachio Disguisey his faith is rewarded immediately. As though God was listening to Pistachio, his grandfather arrives just after his panic episode. Purely a coincidence? The film suggests not. The grandfather hasn’t spoken the family in 23 years but he arrives at the exact moment the family needs him most. Not only that, but he already knows that Pistachio’s parents have been kidnapped. The implausibility of this only suggests that the grandfather has truly been sent on a holy mission from none other than God. This holy sense is aided in the films brilliantly not-so-subtle homage to The Exorcist that likens grandpa Disguisey’s arrival to that of an exorcist—another character with God on his side. This is an extremely significant moment in the film for we have definitive proof here that the Disguiseys are a godly family. The powers of disguise that they possess are granted to them from above. The ability to tap into the force of “Energico” is an ability to harness the powers of the Almighty. GOD IS ENERGICO.
While it is tempting to overly simplify this extremely nuanced movie by saying that if the Disguisey’s are a force of God than Devlin Bowman is a tool of the devil, it would be incorrect to make this dualistic assertion. Instead, the film opts to take a Humanist-Existential stance. Bowman is used to demonstrate God’s indifference to human suffering. Bowman lives by no apriori set of values. He trusts in his ambition and his will to power. He knows what he likes and he seeks to obtain it. He fearlessly and boldly attempts to possess the world that he is imprisoned in through his plan to capture the world’s most rare objects. He is passionate in this pursuit, and though others seem to feel his plan is “wrong” he lives by his own moral compass. He is the true hero of the Master of Disguise. I previously discussed in the farting entry how Bowman was a sympathetic character in that he shows mercy to his adversaries and that he is also shown in vulnerable humanizing moments. In the director’s commentary Dana Carvey even describes him as “likeable.” Devlin Bowman relates to the viewer because he represents the human struggle to make sense of an absurd world. He is a rebel who resists the prophets of god (the Disguiseys) in an attempt to form meaning for his own life. This deeply reflects what Camus would describe as:
“the human demand for clarity and transcendence on the one hand and a cosmos that offers nothing of the kind on the other. Such is our fate: we inhabit a world that is indifferent to our sufferings and deaf to our protests.”
Bowman, rather than commit Philosophical suicide by blindly accepting faith in God that would shield him from his humanly ambition and desires, fights on. Even if it is a lost cause.
The Master of Disguise couples the rich existential allegory with a dominant motif of toying with the degree of free will the characters possess. The Disguiseys are frequently shown not possessing any personal autonomy. Instead, they are slaves to destiny. The book of “The Disguisey Way” anticipates every move that Pistachio makes in the film. When he questions why his Grandfather can’t help him find his family the book has a page claiming, ““in the event the family are missing only the son can save them with no direct interference from grandfather.” Pistachio, surprised at this answer then proclaims, “that is one specific farmer!” This is just the first time that the book directly comments on the action onscreen. It occurs later when Jennifer is trying to get out of going undercover to Devlin’s mansion. The book basically contractually obligates her to “date creepy old guys” for the sake of the cause. Unlike Pistachio and Jennifer, the older generation of Disguisey’s seems privy to their lack of free will. Throughout the film the Grandfather is imploring Fabbrizio to tell his son Pistachio of “his true destiny.” Fabbrizio attempts to hide Pistachio from this by shielding him from the Disguisey way in his restaurant life, but it is to no avail. Pistachio’s urges of Disguise can’t be quelled. Even though Fabbrizio attempts to betray God, There is no escaping one’s true destiny.
It makes sense that the Disguisey’s possess no free will. They aren’t really human at all—they are tools of God. Throughout the movie the Disguisey’s are the LEAST relatable of all the characters. They possess little emotion that is relatable the audience. They frequently are unpredictable and they also don’t seem to really understand any of the other people in the film at all. The film portrays them as such because the viewer is meant to see Devlin’s struggle not only as one against God in favor of humanism, but also as one against destiny. At the end of the film the Disguisey’s have repossessed all of Devlin’s stolen treasures and left him completely defeated— submerged in a pool in Costa Rica. Rather than kill him, or arrest him, they just leave. It’s as though they are giving Devlin a choice of what to do with the predicament they have put him in. Will he quit? When the grandfather asks, “is he dead?” the response is an emphatic, powerful, resilient flatulent explosion from the pool. This is undoubtedly the most poignant moment of the film. It frequently brings me to tears. This humanizing trait of Devlin—his inability to control his farting—was accursed upon him by God. The lord’s messengers, the Disguisey’s, have foiled all of his attempts at realizing his will to power. He is left with nothing except the choice of whether or not he will persevere in his struggle against this cruel existence that tries to deprive him of understanding and joy. The final Bronx is indicative of his resistance. He will climb back up the mountain like Sisyphus with his boulder. He will learn to love this struggle. He will embrace the situation he was placed in. He will cheat the gods. HE WILL BECOME THE MASTER OF THE MASTER OF DISGUISE.
It can get worse. The Master of Disguise in Spanish is virtually unwatchable. It’s horrendous. It is an utter disaster. Having to watch the movie at 2:30am one night, I was attempting to switch things up by watching the dubbed version. I didn’t even need English subtitles because at this point I know roughly every line in the film. This seemed like a good idea at the time. I was horribly mistaken. The atrocity was in some ways actually pretty humorous. If you are fan of utterly bad shit, I highly suggest watching the Master of Disguise with Spanish audio. Allow me illuminate some of the problems.
The Master of Disguise relies on impressions, silly voices, slight word play and speech affectations for about 70% of the humor in the film. The other 20% is slapstick and the final 10% is fart jokes. When you take out the strongest parts of the movie by removing the English speaking actors voices, you are left with just slapstick and fart jokes (and I guess laughing at the terrible Spanish voice actors and funny dubbed speech over nonsynchronous video). One example of the dubbing failure is when Pistachio imitates Shrek. This is a pretty dumb moment in the movie to begin with, but if you don’t actually have the audio track of Dana Carvey imitating the characters in the movie, HOW THE FLYING FUCK IS IT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY? Similarly, when Pistachio mocks the Texans at his father’s restaurant, there is no way to convey the provincial attitude of the patrons that leads to Pistachio making fun of their accents. It just falls flat.
The wordplay jokes also end up making little to no sense. I personally love the line about Pistachio’s home being “full of ransackery” that he says to the police. How is this possible to translate? It would require a lot of thought to concoct a similarly absurd sounding non-word in Spanish—thought that there is no way the Spanish language team was willing to provide.
It’s not as though the actors in the movie were up for any Oscars, but they definitely could have been A LOT worse. This is glaringly obvious when you hear the Spanish voice actors. Why is the grandpa sexy and mysterious sounding? This totally threw me off and also threw me into hysterics a couple of times. Pistachio’s voice actor is simply boring and nowhere close to being able to live up to Dana Carvey’s characters. The turtle scene in particular is a sad shell of itself! Just don’t watch it.
I am pleased to have ventured into this dark territory to prevent you from ever having to watch the dubbed version of this film. Next time I’ll watch it in French to see if it improves anything.
LEVEL UP! I am now a 3,600 Fine Artisan of Disguise!
I’m in a festive mood. I write this entry from a dive bar. I am drinking. I am happy. Today to celebrate being over halfway to becoming The Master of The Master of Disguise I decided to watch the movie with director’s commentary. I was extremely excited. It didn’t seem possible that there could be a new way to experience this movie. What further insight could there possibly be that I hadn’t already thought of unless it was coming straight from the director? I had seen this movie more times than probably 99.9% of the people who had ever seen it at all. I probably have seen it more times than Dana Carvey has, and certainly more than any critic. This viewing was like Christmas. I was going to get something shiny and new! I was getting a reward for my scholarly vigor!
The commentary is given by director Perry Andelin Blake and Dana Carvey. Perry Blake appears to be a resident production director for Adam Sandler’s shitty company because when I search for him on IMDB I see that he is partially responsible for “Click,” “Big Daddy,” and just about every Adam Sandler movie (including the good ones). The Master of Disguise was the only film he every directed. I can’t imagine why. His commentary partner Dana Carvey is known for being funny on SNL, playing Garth in Wayne’s World and being the tour de force that is Pistachio Disguisey in the Master of Disguise. This commentary team seems remarkably unprepared to discuss the movie. At first they try to crack some awkward jokes over the action about how they designed the Columbia Paramount insignia at the beginning. Eventually they settle on half-insight and half humor jibes throughout the eighty minutes.
The director doesn’t really offer anything interesting to the commentary. He occasionally fills the viewer in with trivia bits about how some shots have Dana wearing glasses with lenses and others don’t, or how he shoots all of the villain’s scenes with blue light. He likes talking about homages he made to other movies and friends of his that he cast as extras. These particulars are probably only interesting to someone as invested as myself. Perry Blake is a sad pathetic man in way over his Hollywood head.
what a toolbag.
Dana Carvey on the other hand is fascinating in the commentary. He clearly has perspective on how the public and critics are going to receive the Master of Disguise. He is very self critical throughout the commentary and also demonstrates that he understands much of the criticism. When discussing co-star Harold Gould’s acting career he self-mockingly says, “he worked with Redford, he worked with Brando… and now Carvey.” About a quarter of the way through the director’s commentary Dana also says, “at this point in the movie the critics are probably going ‘WHAT?!’” Though he understands the fact that the movie is destined to be a critical failure he also indicates that he doesn’t give a single fuck. His primary concerns are with the movies absurdity, other-worldliness, and kid friendly tone. He even says himself that the film is “just a low budget quickly” targeting kids. He describes the character Devlin Bowman by saying, “in a PG movie you want to have a villain who is kind of likable so kids don’t get scared” and later says, “When you are trying to be a 6 year old you don’t want to be subtle.” Basically, as long as this movie works for kids it works for Carvey.
a kids movie?
Dana also appears particularly proud of the movie’s illogical nature. At the beginning when a baby slaps a doctor and somehow speaks English Dana proclaims, “Here is the first time we depart from logic.” He relishes in the absurd. When Pistachio has spilled spaghetti all over some patrons Dana says, “and that’s what I love about it, it’s madness. These people are completely covered in spaghetti and they aren’t moving at all.” He says similarly later regarding what I consider the worst moment in the film, “ (Abe) Lincoln dancing funny is one of the comedy constants of the universe. It never gets old. Again we depart from absolute logic in that we have a modern song in 1850, but it’s just a silly movie.” While I completely disagree that this never gets old or even that it can even be considered comedic, I do appreciate that he doesn’t take the film too seriously. For what is life if not absurdity? It’s as though Carvey is channeling Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Constantly Risking Absurdity” and Camus’ proclamation that the human condition is inherently absurd. This is the definitive proof that the film is a poetic existential masterpiece.
Throughout the commentary it becomes clear that decisions were made on a whim regarding everything from casting to major plot elements to details in props and costume. Carvey and Blake aren’t shy to tell us that budgetary constraints made them skip over expository scenes. Carvey claims they had to “quit to the quick.” Because of this necessity you see things like the Disguisey book popping up to surprisingly specific bit of code in the Disguisey Way regarding how parents can only be saved without direct interference from the grandfather. Carvey claims, “This is one of our arbitrary plot points… because we needed the grandpa to go away.” Essentially, they went for the bare minimum required of them in order to further the plot but weren’t shy about dropping copious amounts of cash on CGI and licensing rights to pop songs. Dana likes flaunting how they paid Madonna $17k just to say “One of the great non-sequiturs in movie history” quoting Poppa Don’t Preach. He also flaunts how high the bill was for every CGI sequence where a mask was removed.
The most interest part of the director’s commentary however was that Dana Carvey hadn’t actually seen the final cut of the movie before doing the commentary. The viewer gets to witness Carvey’s initial and unmeasured reactions to the final product. This is especially exciting when Dana seems to actually disagree with certain decisions. He seems perturbed (understandably) about the sequence in which the turtle guy bites off the nose of some jerk. Carvey concedes that it probably got a few laughs from kids but also makes sure to point out that it was Adam Sandler’s idea. It’s as though he doesn’t want to assume responsibility. He is definitely uncomfortable with the atrocious ending credits. He makes sure to point out that the ending sequence in Costa Rica was added late just so he could do a George Bush imitation. He also says to the director Blake that he thought a lot of the footage at the end would be used as DVD extras and not make it into the actual film. His tone changes. He disagrees strongly. I bet he slapped Blake after the commentary was through.
The director’s commentary managed to provide me with further understanding of this comedic gem. While the production team is lighthearted and silly—I still believe that they were secretly invested in portraying complex issues of identity and existential philosophy. This will finally be discussed in my next entry.
One of the subtleties of The Master of Disguise is the implication that everyone has totally buckwild, freaky, sexual fetishes. In the title of the film alone “Master” implies that there is some sort of sexualized power imbalance in the lives of the characters (Well… ok, maybe it doesn’t really). This post will discuss the sexual innuendos that we CAN discern from the film.
The most obvious sexual overtone of the film is the simple fact that the Disguiseys fetishize large and robust posteriors. In layman’s terms this means that they are “ass men.” This even includes asses that appear like an entire Sealy Posturepedic mattress has been stuffed in them. I’m talking asses that knock over restaurant signs on the sidewalk with their comically enhanced girth (this actually happens).
The protagonist Pistachio, somewhat directly comments on how this sexual attraction is akin to a Freudian Oedipal Complex. As he is gawking at a girl he has dubbed, “the tush queen’s” giant ass, he remarks, “Yes… something about her reminds me of my mama.” This is just after the camera has jump cut away from a shot of his mom’s bodonkadonk. The Oedipal nature of this attraction is even furthered when Pistachio is learning to become a “Master” of disguise and surpass his father’s skill. While besting the father isn’t a direct motive, there is certainly a passing of the torch to the Pistachio when he saves his family— Hell, Pistachio even has to battle his father when he has been brainwashed by the villain. At the film’s conclusion Pistachio has fully become the emblem of potent virility in the Disguisey family. Essentially, he has realized his Oedipal Complex, albeit indirectly, and gone from a mama’s boy to a superhero with a super-babe girlfriend who has usurped his own father. Jennifer, Pistachio’s female friend and future wife, is where things get really interesting sexually.
Jennifer is clearly the sex object of the Master of Disguise. As previously discussed on this blog, she is portrayed as sexually experienced, submissive to the men she is romantically involved with, and generally as someone who knows they got it going on lookswise. Before discussing her further its worth pointing out that she looks awfully similar to porn star Jenna Haze. Coincidence? I think not.
Which one is the actress and which one is the porn star? You’d be surprised…
Jennifer’s discovery of her attraction to Pistachio coincides with his newly found ability to continuously save her and demonstrate his prowess over enemies. Despite Pistachio’s noted sexual inexperience (this is, after all, a dude who reveals that his first kiss was with Jennifer and who previously was dancing around a room with underwear on his head and a shaving cream beard on his face as a 23+ year old) Jennifer appears attracted to his savvy nature, and his propensity for physical violence. She is also attracted to him despite that fact that he continuously puts her in dangerous situations. Reduced to its core, Jennifer’s attraction to Pistachio seems to be wild and thrill seeking, with particular emphasis on role playing. How could it not focus on role playing? This is about someone who is able to “become another person.”
After viewing Pistachio’s role-playing during his disguises, Jennifer get’s all hot and riled when Pistachio calls her “a fat cat momma with the red dress on.” It’s as though she is turned on by the idea of becoming this fat cat momma and dressing up the part (she is not wearing a red dress at this time and is anything but fat). One can’t help but infer and imagine that these two must have some freaky ass crazy role-playing sex. They must do seriously dirty things lingering in the subconscious of vile beings. At the very least, Pistachio demonstrates a wide spectrum of traditional masculine and feminine behaviors and his also shown to be very comfortable in drag. Jennifer is a little bi-curious? No problem, Pistachio can become any woman in the world. Jennifer wants to sleep with Hulk Hogan? No problem, Pistachio has got that covered. There are many types of sex that involve one inhabiting a role where they one cultivates another “self” — be this through a strap on phallus, dress up, fantastical scenarios, furry shit, or sexual behaviours that are generally speaking extremely different than one’s publicly projected self. While the film doesn’t show any of these (stupid kids movies!) it definitely implies that they happen. I swear it does. I am in no way reading too much into it because I have seen it ten days in a row or because I have sex on the brain. Definitely not the case.
The best implication of seriously out there sex shit is the creepy minute long scene at the end where an executive of “Black Markebay” auction house asks Devlin about whether a Master of Disguise could dress up as Britney Spears and other “hot” celebrities. This sick fuck even asks about his ability to dress up as the Olsen Twins who were just 16 at the time. THIS MOVIE IS PG AND A GROWN ASS MAN IS INQUIRING ABOUT HAVING A THREESOME WITH MAN ROLE PLAYING AS TWO SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRLS. These characters are animals whose robust sexual appetites can only be satiated with carnal knowledge found within the depths of our very being! They probably get down in ways that Michel Foucault couldn’t even fathom.
Strangely enough, The Master of Disguise is able to reinforce some negative hetero-normative sexual stereotypes (particularly about the women in Pistachio’s life) while at the same time opening a discourse into “deviant” sexual behaviors that certainly exist outside mainstream sexual practice. There is no doubt in my mind that the creators of this film have not a single fucking clue that they managed to achieve this. Most importantly, the film manages to capture all aspects of what it means to want to possess another identity— including how this manifests sexually. This issue of identity and the crisis of the self the main philosophical focal point of the film that I will discuss in the upcoming post. Kudos to this psychological comedy for uniquely capturing complex sexual behaviours and exploring their underlying psychology. It’s a bold step forward into understanding desire. It is scary what this film unearths.
A preface to this post is that it’s thanksgiving and somehow I am becoming very unthankful about the Master of Disguise. So consider this one the “phoned in” post. Suckerz.
There is a dog in the Master of Disguise. His name is “The Cuteness.” He is very cute so it’s a very unclever name— yet somehow brilliant. I will now remark on every appearance The Cuteness makes and rank the cuteness of the appearance on a scale of 1-4 paws.
The First scene The Cuteness appears is in Pistachio’s room – he hides under the bed and whimpers. That’s a pretty cute dog, yo. Pathetic so far. But maybe it will develop 4 out 5 paws
Magically, 10 seconds later Cuteness is downstairs in the kitchen eating sausage. How sneaky and fast! Also Mama doesn’t see the dog eating the sausage. What hilarity. 4 paws.
Talking to Jennifer’s boy Barney Baker outside after falling off skateboard. Pistachio says, “Oh I see you like my dog. His name is The Cuteness.” Barney saying, “I never had a dog.”, following this Pistachio suggests that his poppa might buy Barney a dog. He says “I never had a father.” Pistachio’s reaction is one of the funniest moments in the movie. He has no idea how to handle this info. It’s also the only thing that Pistachio does that resembles a genuine understand of human emotions. Best part— the Cuteness gives lots of LICKS! 5 paws. By far the highlight of everyone’s feeble lives.
Cuteness Runs after Bowman’s car after the ransackery of the house. 3 paws, It’s nothing special but demonstrates loyalty. Shot is too far away to be cute, but Cuteness is starting to get some balls.
SUPER SUBTLE ALERT: After the grandfather leaves, Pistachio and Jennifer discuss where to begin their planning to find his parents. WAY in the background Barney Baker skateboards and da Cuteness follows him. You might not notice this til 13th viewing. It further suggests that this kid is totally on his own in terms of friends and parenting. It also further suggests that I have seen this way to many fucking times.
THE CUTENESS RIDES A SKATEBOARD away with Barney Baker after Pistachio and Trent nearly fight. 5 out of 5 paws! COOL TRICK. Skateboarding dog = cool dog = perfect movie. Also, the boy + dog cuteness team never fails in any movie ever so its a cheap trick. Barney says, “how come I cant do it and you can!?” Trent’s answer would suffice: BECAUSE YOU ARE A LOSER.
In the park on a bench, Jennifer and Pistachio talk while Barney and Cuteness play in park. Nothing special here until he opens the Disguisey book! Look what the cuteness found! 3/5 paws. Further parental neglect his shown here. This dog is truly this boy’s best friend. Raised by dogs.
Da Cuteness is mentioned after Jennifer comes downstairs to say goodnight to Pistachio after day 2. Barney is asleep with the Cuteness! At least she seems to care about her son after work. The Narrator says “the cuteness was on guard” after pistachio leaves Jennifer to form a plan! Then they show him in window. Pretty cool. Bodydog. 3.5 paws
Barney baker comes to roof where Pistachio is formulating his plan talking to grandpa (lot of planning in these cuteness scenes!). Da Cuteness arrives. After the “it’s so crazy it just might work tag line” a bubble pops and dog barks in musical rhythm. This scene is so crazily edited with strange angle shots, bizarre color and this weird and random music sound sequence that it makes me feel like I have eaten a pound of Psilocybin. 4 out of 5 paws for a surreal nature.
The Cuteness Eats the cherry pie disguise in Devlin’s mansion, then faints when Pistachio crawls out. Pistachio tells him to go home because it’s dangerous. Slapstick perfection. 5 paws!
Thanks for positively contributing to the movie The Cuteness. I will certainly name a dog after you in the future. It will provide a good opportunity for me to explain that insane time in my early twenties when I watched the Master of Disguise for 21 days straight.
Viewing 8: Jennifer and the Potentially Problematic Treatment of Female Characters
One of the more complicated characters in the Master of Disguise is Pistachio’s love interest Jennifer Baker. Baker is Portrayed by actress (and 90’s Maxim model) Jennifer Esposito and her performance is surprisingly believable and genuine. This is a pretty impressive feat considering all of the absurdity surrounding her at almost every point in the movie. For example, when Pistachio is saying goodnight to Jennifer and their romance is beginning to blossom, she catches Pistachio slipping up by calling her a “fat cat momma with the red dress on” and somehow manages to make this seem sexy with her reaction. That’s no easy task. Even more difficult is serving as the logically grounding character in a movie that makes very little sense and pulling it off successfully. Esposito is at her best in the Turtle Guy sequence when her attempt to rationalize Pistachio’s insane behavior to the club members is what makes the scene so humorous. It’s very quietly a successful acting job. It took me eight times watching the movie to realize this.
However, despite Esposito’s success portraying the character, Jennifer Baker is a very flawed human being, and a controversial woman in terms of how she balances her romantic, professional and motherly lives in the film. While her behavior can be described as pragmatic, it is also possible to view her as someone who compromises her dignity by allowing herself to be treated poorly and objectified for the sake of survival. Perhaps the film wanted to present Jennifer’s scenario as such to promote discussion such as this. Somehow I doubt it though.
There’s no denying that Jennifer is very conventionally “hot.” Throughout the movie she serves as eye candy for most of the male characters. She uses her physical assets to her advantage throughout the film, particularly by using Devlin Bowman’s attraction to her in order to get invited into his home and rummage around for clues. She is also able to land her job as Pistachio’s assistant because he claims she has a certain “je nais se qua” despite not having a “mama caboose” (phat ass). When Pistachio and the Grandfather size her up she makes it clear to them that she can hear them and makes no further comment when they continue to gawk at her in Italian. If she was intimidated by this flagrant sexual harassment it didn’t show— Jennifer seems solely concerned with “how much it pays” to be Pistachio’s assistant and whether there is good dental insurance for her and her son. She doesn’t even ask what duties the position will require of her! This comes back to bite her in her “tiny” ass later when she expresses concern over Pistachio’s plan of her feigning interest in super villain Devlin Bowman in order to have him invite her on a date to a gala at his mansion. Not only does this make Jennifer uncomfortable and force her to use her sexuality to Pistachio’s advantage, it is also potentially dangerous! Despite her concern, Pistachio pulls out the “Disguisey Way” handbook which has very (comically) specific guidelines for such situations saying, that at times assistants to level 1.5 Masters of Disguise may be required to “date creepy old guys.” Apparently the Disguisey way entails exploiting their female employees. Rather than quit or object further she goes along with the plan. A controversial decision indeed! It is her decision alone though whether she wants to use her appearance to further her professional life.
One could make an argument defending Jennifer that she is willing to take risks and use her sexuality in order to provide for her son—which is the noblest motive (not that she should need a motive to do so). However, throughout the film she also shows totally neglectful behavior to her child Barney. There appears to be no arrangement for nine or so year old Barney’s well being while she is away at work. Instead, he roams around the city on his skateboard with the dog that Pistachio— a total stranger at the time -– has given to him. Frequently Barney is shown wiping out while boarding and Jennifer seems to be completely oblivious to this. It’s Pistachio who actually purchases kneepads for Barney, a gift that Jennifer appreciates despite not having thought of purchasing them herself before. This seems to be a pattern in Jennifer’s behavior, relying on men to help raise Barney. While she hustles her ass off as a single mother, and while she is trying to make her and her son’s life better, it often seems to lead her into terrible relationships.
It is implied often that Jennifer has had many romantic partners, which would be totally cool if they didn’t suck so much. She is able to lead Pistachio to the Turtle Club to begin their investigation because she “used to date a guy” who was in the Turtle Club. It can be assumed that he was extremely wealthy and powerful if he was a member of this exclusive club. Her boyfriend throughout most of the film Trent is extremely abusive, and generally speaking, a total fucking prick but he is able to hide this from Jennifer with phony niceness and a paternal act that he puts on around her son Barney. In reality he laughs at little Barney when he falls of his skateboard and calls him a “loser” to Pistachio. Trent is also extremely possessive and right from the get-go is wary of Pistachio whom he picks a fight with saying that he is “horning in on his action.” Later in the movie it is revealed that Trent is (not surprisingly) cheating on her with a woman that Pistachio once had a crush on. This leads to a bar fight of sorts between Trent and Pistachio which Pistachio wins decisively using his slapping technique. Following the fight BOTH woman are now attracted to the macho and victorious Pistachio (oh please) and Pistachio ignores his earlier flame in favor of Jennifer. This scene presents woman as easily swayed by physical might that is associated with masculinity. Compounding this problem is the fact that THAT VERY NIGHT Jennifer and Pistachio make out and appear to now be dating. This is mere hours after her previous relationship ended and it is her second day on the job where Pistachio is her boss! How does she not view this as potentially problematic!?! Further, Bowman kidnaps her that night as a result of her new job, which leaves Barney home alone as Pistachio goes off to rescue her. This relationship has bad news written all over it. It’s tumultuous just mere days into the relationships inception.
The film’s ridiculously rushed ending includes 4 seconds where the grandfather narrates that Jennifer became “Mrs. Disguisey and Barney gained a father.” So I guess that is supposed to make everything ok and happy. The film could have explored the concepts of fatherhood a lot deeper, but it’s safe to say that Jennifer is entering a very patriarchal family.
Jennifer is not the only victim of the film’s questionable treatment of women. Mama Disguisey appears to be a rather cliché maternal figure who minds her business cooking and having a big ass as the Disguisey men have all the crazy adventures and talk about said ass (weird right?). To the Mama’s credit, she later kicks a henchman’s ass suggesting that maybe there is indeed more to her than meets the eye. One could conceivably say the same about Jennifer, who does appear to be very “in control” of her self despite not being in control of her fate. Maybe it’s less of a testament to her lack of female autonomy, and more about the film’s struggle between destiny vs. free will. This will be explored next time as I venture further into the subconscious of The Master of Disguise!
I am now a level 2400 journeyman yellow belt (level 8 realtime)! More than a 1/3 of the way through!
PS: A funny little illogical discrepancy— Jennifer introduces herself as “Barbara” to Devlin when they meet at the antiques road show. Later at Devlin’s mansion Pistachio arrives as Constable Muehler asking for Jennifer and Devlin seems to know who he is referring to? How?
Often when watching the Master of Disguise I find myself wondering about what could have been done to make the movie great. After watching this seven times in a row I think it’s safe to say that the biggest factor in this movie not getting taken seriously is the soundtrack. Simply put—it’s annoying as hell. Often, it only detracts from what’s happening on screen. It’s almost like there was a giant bargain bin of songs in the licensing store and they just went all out to try to find notable, yet completely irrelevant music to jam throughout the 80 minutes of the movie. What’s more baffling is that there was original music recorded for the Master of Disguise. Think about that for a second: THERE WAS ORIGINAL MUSIC RECORDED FOR THE MASTER OF DISGUISE. Not like orchestral ambient stuff… pop songs. Let’s examine some of the lowlights of the music reel.
The opening kooky orchestral music is actually good. If they had stuck with similar music throughout the film it would feel a lot more coherent and would seem like a more magical movie. Instead we start the garbage flinging trend right at the opening credits when the orchestral music cuts out and we get:
"Fun" by someone named Rose Falcon:
This song definitely does not live up to its name. It sounds like someone trying to poorly imitate that song “on the rooftops shouting out/ baby I’m ready to go.” It is a very ominous sign of things to come.
Devo – Whip It:
What does this have to do with a sequence in which 51 people are interviewed to be an assistant to Pistachio? Why this song? What on earth was the thought process? I don’t dislike this song, I like it a whole hell of a lot better than the other songs in the movie. What I hate is the idea that this song is the best for this sequence. It’s not. Any other song has a 50% chance of being better. It’s almost as though whatever fool was in charge of a soundtrack played darts blindly in a Sam Goody taking whatever he hit. Maybe it was random… maybe it was like a John Cage chance piece based on I Ching number sequences… This song was in a Swiffer commercial too. Was that relevant in 2002?
Walking on Sunshine:
I’d be content to never hear this song again. It’s another happy go lucky, neutral, pop song that adds nothing.
Reel To Reel — I Like to Move It:
I am not sure if this song serves any purpose anymore other than making children under age 9 dance and act generally annoying. This is a song played in elementary school gym classes when you do aerobics. The Abraham Lincoln dance sequence with this song is possibly the low point of the entire movie. It is certainly a point in which many people walked out of the theatre. Essentially, this sequence encapsulates every aspect of the film that failed—juvenile jokes, non-humorous irrelevance, and very poorly thought out plot over a REALLY annoying song. (remember this movie IS NOT BAD!!! There are just LOTS of terrible parts… does that make sense?)
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger:
Used for a fight sequence. Enough said.
I would continue in this fashion writing about “U Can’t Touch This” or “Conga” (the Conga dance sequence is by the way the second worst moment in the movie) but it serves no real purpose—much like the inclusion of any of these stupid songs.
What’s more interesting is the original material. There are two songs called “M.A.S.T.E.R pt 1.” and “M.A.S.T.E.R pt 2.” That are prominently featured throughout. Part 2 actually has it’s own music video in the special features featuring none other than b2k! Part 1 is performed by Vitamin C- the wonderful lady who brought us The Graduation Song. These songs remind me of how Will Smith used to record a hit single for all those late 90’s early 2000’s movies he was in. It sounds like these songs are even imitating Will Smith and that’s never a good thing. The music video is pretty hilarious. Some weird girl band group is singing over a pseudo-Timbaland/Aaliyah groove and it appears one of them is sitting on a toilet? How can they take themselves seriously singing about the Master of Disguise. The song seems pretty serious! Lil Fizz’s rap verse —
I have to stop. This is getting me . dwn. This is getting to me. I just wrote Lil Fizz. I have to stop.
Viewing 5: Justice, Morality, Bowman as a Modern Jay Gatsby
My fifth viewing was also the first time that I wasn’t watching on a screen with an HD connection. It felt more true to the times of 2002! This was a time where it still made sense to make on-screen jokes like:
“Did you ask Jeeves?”
“Yes, but no such luck!”
It was also the first time that I watched it at 2:30 in the morning and I had just returned from a Doom metal show at an industrial loft on the Boston waterfront. This was a very interesting context in which to watch the Master of Disguise.
Devlin Bowman has become a more and more intriguing character as I continue to re-watch the film. In my last post I talked about how his farts humanized him and simultaneously degraded him. This post will focus more on the specifics of his motives and how Bowman is a widely misunderstood character in cinema.
One of the very understated motives in the film is revenge. Fabrizio Disguisey put Bowman in an Italian prison for 23 years! In my opinion it makes Bowman more dignified and complicated that he doesn’t want to simply murder Fabrizio and his entire family. While he does kidnap the Disguiseys, he is almost compassionate in his treatment of Mama Disguisey, using a special potion in caramel corn to make he think she is in the comfort of her home cooking dinner. Instead of bloodlust, Bowman seems fully devoted to his cause of stealing the world’s rare artifacts. He witnessed Fabrizio’s skills the night he helped lead to his arrest, and rather than resent him, he just wants to use that skill to further his goals. While this thievery is partially motivated by profit, it also appears that he is truly knowledgeable about art history, architecture and appraisal. He seems to love little but collecting. At the appraisers meeting with Gammy Num Nums he is able to successfully identify his “nest-in-a-box” briefcase as 12 century Tuscan—implying he has got some intellectual chops.
This is a man who has been left alone to his thoughts, studies, and ambition for presumably his entire life. He doesn’t appear to have many friends despite an inordinate amount of money and his propensity for organizing high society social events. He is terrible with woman as evidenced in his awkward, creepy fumbling affair trying to seduce Jennifer. For all these reasons, Devlin Bowman is a modern Jay Gatsby.
Let’s hope Leonardo DiCaprio studies Brent Spiner’s portrayal before shooting the new rendition.
Much like Gatsby (a bootlegger) Bowman is reclusive, wealthy, criminal who appears to be dissatisfied despite “success” in their field. He throws elaborate soirées but rarely is able to enjoy them. Instead, Bowman, much like Gatsby takes a back seat and observes affairs, keeping an eye on things to make sure they run smoothly.
Brent Spiner is able to fully capture Bowman’s complex range of motivations. While some might argue he is just a terrible actor in this film in that he isn’t a believable “villain,” I’d argue that he is intentionally portraying Bowman as someone who is socially isolated, and feels pressure that he “ought” to behave in certain ways if he is to be perceived by the world as a bad man. This is where his maniacal laughter leading to his farting really proves that he is not really evil, but just doesn’t know how to get what he wants without being a social outcast. He is like that kid you knew in high school who acts like a know-it-all and brags all the time but is deeply insecure, despite the fact that they really are incredibly gifted. Bowman does this when he says things like, “who would have thought that Jesse Ventura was the perfect disguise to abscond with the Liberty Bell… Me!” and then farts and looks away with shame. For crying out loud! The poor guys doesn’t even realize that it’s socially unacceptable to have his classmates.com profile tag line read “the become the world’s greatest black marketer and possess the rarest treasures on earth, then store them in a secret underground lair.”
The Disguiseys seem to understand Bowman’s persona by the end of the film. They never even kill or arrest him, but instead leave him defeated and humiliated in a pool in Costa Rica after repossessing all of his stolen goods. Rather than leave the justice system to sort him out again, they show him compassion. They give him a second chance. This is a true form of justice—and that is what the Master of Disguise is trying to get across. There is no “bad” people or “good” people. Rather than take a Kantian Morally Absolute stance, the film demonstrates a strong moral relativism. People just need to be shown humane treatment and love and given the chance to redeem themselves should they personally feel that they have erred in their ways. Let’s hope Bowman makes the most of his second chance.
is this lady of justice really the master of disguise?
LOOK! I’m now a level 5 yellow belt Journeyman on my quest to becoming the Master of the Master of Disguise!
It is pretty embarrassing to watch the Master of Disguise on a crowded train. This is coming from someone who has watched professional wrestling on the commuter rail before. I’m not sure if it was just the transit, the upcoming holiday, an early morning crisis coming after a night with little sleep, but I wasn’t feeling The Master of Disguise today. Maybe it’s because I watched it 6 days straight…. I don’t know. For some reason every time Pistachio opened his mouth a felt an urge to say his lines and then bash his frikkin’ skull in! It’s a shame… I felt I was on the verge of some pretty significant discoveries, but then I suffered a setback today. Hopefully tomorrow, I will be able to hop back on the horse and find the joy and laughter again. I did however, notice a few odds and ends and peculiarities.
• The plot of Master of Disguise is kind of similar to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. A secret italian family order with sneaky skills and disguise prowess that protects the world throughout different times and places from evil? I bet the game stole it! It’s a lot less violent I suppose… Hmmmm…. If I were Happy Madison productions I would consider suing. They’d probably make more than the film grossed from the lawsuit. Speaking of Happy Madison…
• While I did realize that it said “Happy Madison” productions and “Adam Sandler” in the opening credits it didn’t really hit me today that OF COURSE Adam Sandler somehow played a role in this. I didn’t write anything about it earlier because any reader would assume this to be the case with no prior knowledge of the movie. BlackMarkEBay is a lot like The Silk Road. Do you think they were using Bitcoins when Devlin was selling off all those rare artifacts online? Did the master of disguise invent black market auctions online? I might explore this further.
• What are those books called when the head, middle, and bottom are interchangeable pictures so they make different characters? There is one in the opening credits of the movie. How do I even explain this…. Like a book where the pages are cut into thirds and all along the top tows are different heads, then middle row has different torsos, and the bottom has different feet. It makes funny combinations. There has to be a name!!! It’s driving me crazy. Someone tell me. THIS (sort of):
• The drum beat Dana Carvey plays at the end of the movie while dressed as the turtle is pretty whack. But it’s still really cool that Dana Carvey plays drums and that he is a giant turtle.
•Pistachio appears to be straight edge. He drinks a lot of soda and no alcohol despite the fact that his parents run a restaurant.
I have stumbled my way into become a level 6 journeyman yellowbelt (HOWEVER! It is important the note that Grandpa Disguisey said there were 7000 levels… this means I am really at level 1,800 if we were to make it proportional)
To establish a pattern of making lists and rankings in an attempt to categorize and quantify the psychological trauma I am enduring after 4 viewings of The Master of Disguise, I am going to analyze each of Devlin Bowman’s fart jokes.
The fart joke is the lowest, cheapest, most base attempt at humor in the movie (this is saying quite a bit) and the film uses the villainous Bowman as the vessel to get a few cheap chuckles and also to get the audience to mock this otherwise menacing character’s humanizing weakness. Let’s look at each instance:
After Bowman first reveals his evil plan to Fabrizio of using his disguise prowess to steal rare artifacts, he erupts into cliché maniacal laughter of the “MUHAHAHAHA!” variety over ominous sounding music. However, unlike your typical villain, Bowman belts out a little “toot” which cuts all other sound, leaving the two in an uncomfortable silence. Very clever. The awkward silence is what really sells the fart. The audience has yet to realize this will be a reoccurring joke, so this initial fart is the basis that all the other fart jokes will derive their humor from. Because the first fart is essentially the rubric it is only fair to give it a “C,” which once upon a time in school meant “average.”
The second flatulent occurs when Fabrizio and Bowman are escaping in the car after stealing the constitution. Much like the first fart joke, the music dropping is a nice touch. The addition of being in a confined space of a vehicle, sitting side by side, makes this joke a bit funnier. Bowman’s awkward stare forward trying to ignore what just happened is what really drives this fart joke home. A solid effort! Most viewers after witnessing the second fart are probably guessing that these farts are going to be a reoccurring gag, for better or for worse. At this point in time Bowman appears only slightly embarrassed by his farting.
Fart three is virtually the same formula. The Liberty Bell has just been stolen and once again Fabrizio and Bowman are in the car. Bowman finds Fabrizio’s “mask hair” (like hat hair) very funny and lets out some roaring laughter and, once again a little toot. The only difference is that he laughs a little longer this time so there is maybe one nano-second where the viewer says, “hey maybe he won’t fart this time.” Unfortunately he does. There is some good timing demonstrated with Devlin’s laugh, but the joke is a bit stale. It also doesn’t further Devlin’s emotional development to his farting problem all that much.
Once again we find ourselves in a car after a heist. This particular joke is very self-aware. Clearly a pattern has been established so now they can get a bit tongue in cheek about the stupidity of this trope. Bowman laughs again, but this time he finishes laughing and says “oh!?” surprised and proud of himself for controlling his gas. However, when he then turns to look at Fabrizio, FART! Out of thin air! What a surprise! Disappointment and shame follow in Bowman’s face.
Bowman flees from the Disguiseys and runs towards the exit laughing maniacally again. As he is running he farts multiple times. It’s in this sort of rhythmic pattern, “HA HA HA (TOOT) HA HA HA (TOOT) HA HA HA (TOOT)” 4/4 time straight eighth notes. Now you can play along at home.
After the last fart the music drops and Devlin looks really upset with himself. He was trying so hard to play the tough bad guy but this farting thing is always undermining him. I am actually beginning to feel a little bad for him. He can never have his moment and has to deal with the humiliation of this unfortunate disorder all the time.
Never has a fart made me think this much. Fart 5 gets extra props for its musical nature and emotional depth.
Grade: B++ (I can never give a fart joke an A)
The evil Devlin Bowman has finally been defeated in Costa Rica as he was vacationing and relaxing poolside. Pistachio gives him some slaps and a head butt and sends him sprawling into the pool. The Grandfather then asks, “is he dead” and almost in response a giant underwater bubbly gas comes exploding out of the pool. All of the sexy babes hanging near the pool wrinkle their noses and make a ‘P.U” face. Devlin has not only had his plan foiled, but his pride comes crashing down as well in this moment. It as though his entire human spirit and dignity come belting out of his anus when he is submerged, defeated, drowning underwater. This is a highly symbolic fart. With a two second flatulent Devlin isn’t even human any longer. While they don’t show it on screen (rated PG), I am 100% certain that Devlin kills himself following this incident.
Grade: Simultaneous F and A. (it really makes me tear up, but it’s also a dumb fart joke)
Hey! I am now a level 4 (1200) white belt apprentice!
Time flies when you are watching the Master of Disguise! This movie is fast. Not only is it short, clocking in at 80 minutes, its pace is completely frenetic. I think if one were to do detailed research (even more ridiculously detailed than what I am doing) they would discover that that there is a joke delivered about once every 4 seconds. There is virtually no downtime and time wasted on setting the scene or developing depth to the characters’ emotions. That would be a waste. Before the viewer knows it, the movie approaches its ridiculously rushed end (I’m going to devote a whole entry to the ending and alternate ending later). It’s one thing for the movie to fly by in real time, but after my third viewing I was incredibly distracted by the sequencing of events.
Is this the deeper message?
Watching completely sober it’s easier to realize that the timing of events as they unfold makes no sense. Granted, I don’t think the creators of Master of Disguise cared much about logic in just about any aspect of the film.
I surmised in my initial post that it took place over a couple of days + a flashback (and a flash forward to Costa Rica at the very end). This is technically correct, however the movie seems to operate on multiple time planes. Let’s dissect:
The movie begins in a flashback to 1979 Palermo, Italy where Fabrizio is disguised as Bo Derek and helps bust a younger Devlin Bowman who is stealing some artifact. Grandpa Disguisey is narrating, so he must be some sort of omnipresent force that exists outside of the constraints of time. When I first saw the opening flashback I thought it was totally unrelated. However, I figured this contextualizing scene out a little better after re-watching. At first viewing I thought it was totally fucking stupid and made no sense. While it’s still totally fucking stupid, it actually makes sense in plot and Devlin establishes later that he spent 23 years in Jail as result of that night.
Fabrizio declared the night he catches Bowman that he would hide the family history from his son. This must mean Pistachio is older than 23. Ok plausible enough.
So 23 year later we are at the Italian restaurant in “present day America.” So far so good… the movie was released in 2002 so real time and movie time are synced up. However, things get hairy pretty quickly.
Bowman declared many times that he was in Italian prison for 23 years. That means that he somehow got out of jail and reestablished himself as a multimillionaire black market crime lord in like a day or a week or something. Hmm…. It’s getting fishy.
A single day passes at the restaurant and that night the family is kidnapped by Bowman. After the ransackery, Pistachio’s Granpapa arrives, reveals the family history, and begins training Pistachio.
The grandpa hasn’t spoken to the family in 23 years as well (23 is the magic # in this movie) but he arrives (presumably from Italy) at the exact right time, and somehow knows pistachio is in trouble and that his son has been kidnapped. I’ll devote a post to Granpa’s arrival later… but let’s focus on the timing again.
Ignoring the fact that Grandpa somehow trained Pistachio to use Energico in a single night with no sleep, the very next frikkin’ morning Pistachio and Jennifer have formed their team and go off to the Turtle club together. This means that in one morning Pistachio has conducted over 51 job interviews for an assistant (the grandfather provides this stat), searched through the dumpster with Jennifer for clues AND traveled to the turtle club—all on no sleep, while recently suffering serious psychological trauma of having your entire family kidnapped. YEAH FUCKING RIGHT!
The first day ends after the turtle club scene when Pistachio says good night to Jennifer outside her home. However, all this time Devlin and Fabrizio have been stealing artifacts. The first artifact they steal—the constitution—is listed as “rare item # 1” on screen. By the time the first night is over they are somehow up to “rare item # 46” with the Liberty Bell. This means they somehow miraculously stole 44 other rare items in ONE NIGHT!
At this point you might be defending the creators by saying:
“But wait! Jacob… the Liberty Bell is in Philadelphia and the US Constitution is in D.C. It’s only about 2.5 hours driving between those two cities! Maybe they got the other 44 items en route that day.”
Ok… I suppose it is technically possible using Energico to move that quickly. It is true that later in the movie they show some items Devlin is Selling on “Black MarkEBay” that could have been acquired on that route. But let’s examine more damning evidence against the creators.
The second day ends (after going to Devlin’s mansion, escaping, going to dinner and fighting Jennifer’s boyfriend Trent) and Pistachio and Jennifer are again outside her house— this time smooching. By this time Devlin has stolen 99 rare items and is in the process of stealing the Apollo Lunar Module! How could they STILL be in Washington D.C and stolen all those other rare items?! There were items from all over the world on Black MarkEbay—there’s no way they would have had the time. GOD DAMNIT THIS MAKES NO SENSE.
What’s even worse is that the movie concludes the next day when Pistachio rescues his father (they never actually show him rescuing Mama but let’s assume she makes it home ok). At this time the Grandpa declares Pistachio a Master of Disguise. So you’re telling me he somehow got promoted 7,000 levels in 2 days? It takes like a year to get a stripe on a brown belt in Karate yet somehow Pistachio learned all this shit in 2 days.
Maybe I ought to suspend my disbelief. Is this movie getting to me? I hope not. I still have 18 more to go. I am now a level 3 white belt- It took me longer than it took Pistachio to get to 7000.
Viewing #2 is over and I’m still feeling great! I laughed more this time through than in the maiden voyage. I am noticing that my anticipation of certain lines is only enhancing them! Pretty soon I’ll be able to quote all the lines from memory, which is probably the saddest party trick in humanity.
The main strength of The Master of Disguise (if such a think can be said, which it can, because I JUST DID) is in the characters that Dana Carvey creates as disguises for the hero Pistachio. That being said, it’s time to analyze and grade all of Pistachio’s disguises in the movie!
(in order of appearance)
This is the very first disguise in the movie! How sentimental. Grandpa Disguisey has just taught Pistachio how to “become another person” using the powers of Energico. Thankfully for Pistachio, Prince Lamijama (or whatever his name is) was just for practice. The prince doesn’t have much going for him. He is pretty much a one-dimensional racial stereotype of an Indian snake charmer. Nothing all that clever, and a lot that is…well, racist.
The prince does have one redeeming quality and that is the smooth jazz that he blasts from his magic flute to soothe the cobra. It’s a nice touch to hear Kenny G amidst all the chaos of the movie. Wait… I take it back. That’s actually really lame. In fact, the only thing that could have been lamer than Kenny G is that band Fun, but they probably weren’t around in 2002.
Prince Lamijabaracist gets 3.5/10 Energico points. Really getting things off on the wrong foot here.
Redemption comes fast! The iconic figure of The Master of Disguise. The one who stands above all in popularity. The one who dominates the preview. The one who is probably the only thing that 90% of the people who have seen Master of Disguise remember. The turtle is incredible. What makes him so funny is the context surrounding him. He is Pistachio’s first necessary disguise and he uses him to sneak into the high society “Turtle Club” in search of the villainous Bowman. Oh silly Pistachio! You didn’t get it’s just a name, how funny! HAHA! Jennifer’s ad libbing to make the turtle seem like a special needs child with some strange sort of shell-like birth defect is what really sells this disguise. I actually think it would work in real life! Who could say no to an adorable, strange young man who has dreamt of joining a turtle club his whole life and feeling accepted for once? Shame on the suited jerks who laugh at him and offer him pond water! The turtle works. The turtle works it. He ranks among the best characters in modern cinema. You have probably quoted him before saying “turtle.” Don’t lie. (but what the hell is up with the crazy nose biting sequence? The movie is SO realistic other than that weird CGI enhanced “got your nose” moment)
10/10 Energico points. A master disguise!
oops. wrong picture?
Gammy Num Nums:
Gammy is a sass machine granny that Pistachio uses to disguise himself while at a rare art appraisal meeting trying to track Devlin Bowman. She is quite wonderful. Spunky! Flirtatious! And quite scornful when Bowman rejects her advances! She possesses a take no nonsense attitude and an uppity snobbery perfect for her setting amongst the collectors. Her finer qualities come through with the line:
“Let me appraise you. You’re an idiot. A complete and total idiot.”
Not only does the name Gammy Num Nums roll right off the tongue, she provides some of the best quotes of the film ranging from, “Well… you’re a tall drink of water. And I just love Moisture” to “Take a gammy off my nummy nums” (which I believe I have said to someone I was dating once). My only complaint was that there wasn’t MORE Gammy. I’d like to see a spin off film soon.
Gammy gets 10/10 Energico points. A master disguise!
If I didn’t see Mr. Peru listed in the credits I wouldn’t have known that was his name. I would have just called him Tony Montana, the character from Scarface whom he emulates. Slightly less racist than the Prince, only because he is imitating a popular film icon, Mr. Peru provides far more humor. Used to distract Devlin at his mansion while Jennifer searches for clues, Mr. Peru delivers some solidly humorous lines. When brought a platter of crab cakes he exclaims at the poor caterer, “With your attitude, they should be called “crabby cakes”” PRICELESS. Genius even. It’s followed up with Mr. Peru delivering the Heimlich to Bowman to delay his exit. He then apologizes, with a truly underrated gem:
“He was not choking and I was doing the Heimlich maneuver. I am sorry. That could be dangerous. If someone is not choking… NO MANEUVER.”
It has occurred to me upon reading the quotes that they are not funny at all. I guess that is a true testament to the comic styling of Carvey, no? The lack of originality and a horrible dance scene lower Mr. Peru’s Energico score
5/10 Energico points.
Rambling Boat Man a La Jaws
The rambling man on a boat is used to hide Pistachio from evil henchmen who are chasing after him. While he lacks originality as well, his voice is spot on and the nonsense he garbles is unadulterated-grade A-nonsense. Perhaps the most ridiculous line in the movie belongs to Boat Man with, “Ever seen a shark’s eyes, chief? Kinda like dolls eyes, all black and lifeless like. 39 kids go in the water. 32 kids come out of the water. The ice cream man he take the rest. April the 9th, half past 4 pm.” It’s worth noting that this disguise actually fails Pistachio due to him not covering his arm hair. Tangent: I once rode Jaws the ride repeatedly with a friend of mine to annoy the tour guide actor when we started to anticipate what was going to happen out loud.
7/10 Energico points
Immediately after the boat man fiasco Pistachio camouflages himself as a cow pie that a henchman steps in. Yuk. Yuk. Hardy Har. Poo joke.
4/10 Energico points
I laughed and laughed and laughed and then cried at the futility of this project. I love Constable Muehler. He appears at Devlin’s mansion looking for Jennifer and introduces himself in what I believe is a Swiss-German accent as a Tax Authority. This character makes it clear that this move had no script. Muehler giggles and rambles and wanders and has buckteeth and is kind of sexy. He is entirely aimless and in a way gives the whole movie a psychedelic edge. I am also capable of imitating him which is a plus and also kind of sad.
8/10 Energico Points
He’s dashing and debonair, smooth and sophisticated. He is essentially a James Bond knock. He appears suddenly and leaves just as quickly, but not before gifting the audience with a line that should be added to everyone’s everyday vernacular, “Get it? Got it? Doubt it. (wink)” Suave will make a fan out of the non-believers.
7.5/10 Energico Points
Pistachio becomes a cherry pie to sneak into a black market auction. He then looks like some slimy sweet Swamp Thing that shoots cherries at the henchmen. Pretty weird. Also, it’s technically the second pie costume (cow pie), which in an 80-minute movie seems ridiculous.
6/10 Energico points
Steve the Henchman:
Ah! How clever, disguise yourself as the enemy! Unfortunately for
Pistachio he forgets the shoes and is caught wearing his cherry pie costume underneath! BLASTED!!!!! Not much humor here, but an interesting twist
4/10 Energico points
President George W. Bush:
This is the disguise that finally catches Bowman. It’s a pretty decent Dubbya imitation that’s lifted straight from SNL. So if you have ever watched Carvey on Saturday nights the surprise isn’t really there. It’s awesome how in 25 years this will be incredibly dated. Then again, the president is certainly not the only thing that will be totally obsolete about this movie in the future. JUST LISTEN TO THE SOUNDTRACK!!! (more on this in the future)
6/10 Energico points (would be higher but at this point everyone is sick of this shit)
THE WINNER?: GAMMY NUM NUMS!!!! While the turtle is more important of a character, Gammy has more depth and leaves you wanting more!
Groucho Marx, Kookie Toy Store Guy, BOB ROSS, A Dinosaur, Spartacus (Curius Maximus), Forest Gump, A French dude disguised as a queen, ventriloquist, Dracula
These all appear in the rapid-fire credits and some additionally in deleted scenes. What’s perhaps the most impressive thing here is that there was actually some thought that went into editing this movie. These dudes didn’t make the cut?! WHY? Could they have made it any worse? I’d give anything to see the Director’s Cut with all these characters. Make it four hours long! Bring it on! I’d especially love to see more of the Toy Store man, but maybe he’s in some deleted scenes. I’ll look later.
Congratulations! You have made it through all of the disguises in Master of Disguise!!!! (well, just Pistachio’s…) I am sure it was almost as hard for you as it was for me to write this.
I am now a LEVEL 2 (600/7000 in movie scale) APPRENTICE on the way to becoming The Master of the Master of Disguise!
Viewing 1: Level One White Belt Apprentice-- An Overview
One down— twenty to go. I’m feeling great. I’m feeling energized. I’m even intellectually inspired after this flagship viewing. I have over seven pages of notes and I’m ready to delve deep into animus of this film. I’m ready to analyze the shit out of this sucker. I will know every nook and cranny, every square inch on the 35mm film of this comedic masterpiece. However, before getting too deep it’s probably a good idea to give a little overview and basic summary of the plot and themes in this initial post. Believe me, the birdseye view gives a good sense of the lunacy of this movie. In fact—this move is so disjointed that a birdseye view probably looks a bit like the chaos of a bombed out city… but nonetheless…
We begin the film with the on-screen narrative text: “Many centuries ago, a remarkable family began to practice the magical art of disguise. Down through the ages they worked in secret, protecting the world from evil. This is there story…”
And so begins the odyssey of Pistachio Disguisey (pretty heavy handed name, but this movie is NOT about subtlety), the lovable loser whose transformation from a goofy-socially stunted waiter at his Father’s Italian restaurant to a superhero of sorts, serves as the focal point for the plot of The Master of Disguise (Side note: Ben and Jerry’s really dropped the ball not having a flavor called Pistachio Disguisey, as did every other movie predating 2002 for not having a protagonist with that name).
The background information in the text at the beginning is almost entirely irrelevant to the action on screen… The movie doesn’t really tell the Disguisey story except for this one incident that takes place hundreds of years after their heyday… but hey, who’s really paying attention? The text is almost as epic as the beginning of Star Wars. Maybe Disney should get Dana Carvey to write Episode 7. I think that’s a pretty good idea. It really couldn’t get much worse than Episode II, so I’d trust Dana to get things back on track. At the very least, he should make a movie consisting entirely of his impressions of Star Wars characters and call it Master of Disguise Episode II. Speaking of Star Wars, the cosmic force that Pistachio uses throughout the movie “Energico” is very much like the force. I didn’t realize this was intentional until the end of my first viewing when Pistachio’s mentor and grandpa says “he must have been pulled over to the dark side of Energico.” And then Pistachio replies, “there’s a dark side? Exactly like Star Wars?!” Once again, subtlety is not a friend of the Master of Disguise. Another connection in the stars is that the super villain and antagonist of the film Devlin Bowman is played by Brent Spiner, the actor who played Data from Star Trek!!!
Ok—getting back on track to the basic plot of the film (these entries, will be as scattered and tangential as possible to mimic the style of the film). Pistachio’s father has hidden his family history and their disguise prowess from young Pistachio. The father has carved out a nice stereotypical Italian restaurant owner existence for his family and does not want to burden him with the knowledge of their duty to save the world through disguise. They are a simple bunch, content with making spaghetti, occasionally imitating patrons when they cant contain their disguise instincts and gawking at giant asses (the Disguiseys are ass men—frequenting the movie with PG “dat ass” exclamations and weird Fruedian appreciation of girls with bottoms like Mama Disguisey).
The Disguiseys’ peaceful life comes to a screeching halt when Devlin Bowman kidnaps Pistachio’s mother and father in an effort to use the father Fabrizio’s powers of disguise to, as he puts it on his Classmates.com profile, “become the world’s greatest black marketer and possess the rarest treasures on earth, then store them in a secret underground lair.” Apparently the power of disguise is only passed through the Y chromosome, because Mama Disguisey, despite her kidnapping, has no powers other than her cooking and phat ass. However, Fabrizio proves quite useful in this diabolical plan.
Bowman uses Pistachio’s father (who I swore was Burt Reynolds but is really James Brolin who is Diane Lane’s father in law and who I believe has no relation to Josh Brolin) to steal artifacts disguised as celebrities. Bowman discovered Fabrizio in Italy when he was disguised as Bo Derek for some reason doing something that was never really established clearly in the plot line. However, this disguise skill creates opportunities for lots of cameos. First, Michael Johnson steals the constitution, which is not only an extremely dated appearance, but also spawns the great quote:
“Hey Guys, thanks for letting me borrow the constitution”
“Are you Kidding, you’re Michael Johnson… the fastest man alive!” (with Chariots of Fire song in background)
Jesse Ventura then steals the liberty bell, Jessica Simpson in turn steals the Apollo Lunar Module… you get the idea.
See what I mean? Striking resemblance.
As Bowman uses Fabrizio for his nefarious purposes, Pistachio attempts to track down his family with the help of his mentor figure and mystic grandfather who appears out of fucking nowhere to help Pistachio tap into his potential. After about two minutes of exposition and a training montage Pistachio is ready to venture out on his own.
At his Grandfather’s suggestion, they hire an assistant for Pistachio, who has become a level 1 white belt apprentice out of 7000 levels of disguise (this plot element is inexplicably dropped, but I really wish that they had kept promoting Pistachio throughout the film at a painfully slow pace until 47 hours later he finally achieved his ultimate title of Master. I am probably alone in this belief… but I am also probably the only person to attempt to watch this film 21+ times. Dana Carvey probably didn’t even do that). Pistachio’s new assistant and “milf” companion Jennifer serendipitously becomes the real brainpower of their quest to find his parents after she lands the job because Pistachio witnessed her son crash on his skateboard. This made her happen to be around for an impromptu job interview. Despite her “tiny tushy,” Jennifer goes on to serve as Pistachio’s love interest, catalyst for transformation, and as the only logically grounding character in the movie.
After a series of hilarious disguises and escapades, taking place over what seems to be 1 or two days in screen time, Jennifer pretty sums up the only character development in the movie after Pistachio beats up her two-timing jerk boyfriend (who by the way, they get over as a bad dude with the 10 second trick of giving him a duck flip haircut, nice sweater, and having him call her son an idiot as he falls of his skateboard). Jennifer says to Pistachio outside her door at night,
“I want to get something off my chest. Today when I saw you, dressed up like the crazy haired guy. At that moment, I really thought that you were this pathetic, insane, absurd, spastic little man. And now I believe that you can do anything.”
This is the real journey of The Master of Disguise. Pistachio was once a feeble, immature, loser, who through the power of pretending to be anyone but himself is able to save his family and win the hot of a hot girl. It’s a pretty powerful message that we shall dissect in my next twenty+ entries.
But I should say no more for now… The journey is just beginning. I am a level 1 white belt apprentice in my quest to become the master of The Master of Disguise.
I Am Going To Be The Master of The Master of Disguise
I am going to be the master of the Master of Disguise. Today I embark on an almost certainly unprecedented cinematic marathon. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of this seminal film (but mostly to win a bet) I will watch Dana Carvey’s the Master of Disguise once a day for 21 days straight. If I make it out alive and do not tap out at the hands of this menace, I will receive a fancy dinner from my girlfriend. I believe myself to be fully prepared to win this bet.
I have seen The Master of Disguise before and I actually enjoy it (perhaps about 20% ironically). That being said, this is a movie that I’d probably rather revisit once a year or two rather than every day for three weeks. I also realize that many people consider this to be one of the worst movies ever made. These people are joyless and probably like Dana Carvey a lot less than I do. Dana Carvey is incapable of wrongdoing. Seriously though, this movie was the creators knew Dana Carvey could do 5 funny voices, so they set up a loose plot to let those be featured and started shooting 3 days later. Despite, how poorly assembled it is, I bet that by the time this is over we will unearth the film’s deeper existential questions. I am guessing that it reflects deeply on issues of identity, and what it truly means to be one’s “self.” It also probably addresses issues that arise from maintaining false pretenses for too long. Maybe it’s a giant allegory?!?! Maybe it isn’t… we’ll find out.
I have some sentimental attachment to the film in that I have quoted it for about 10 years since it’s release. I love Gammy Num Nums and The Turtle. They are two of the best characters in modern cinema. Additionally, the DVD I am watching ad nauseam was the first thing I ever shoplifted as a teenager (I have no idea why). It was sitting in a bargain bin at the now defunct Hollywood Video and apparently I deemed its value to be less than the $3 asking price.
I will post my findings, impressions, and updates on my psychological state on this blog. By the end of this, I will be the world’s foremost expert on the Master of Disguise.