Although it was a modest box office success, the film was poorly received by most critics and has appeared on several lists of the worst films ever made.
In Italy, 1979, Fabbrizio Disguisey, the latest in a long line of secret agents known as "Masters of Disguise", breaks up a smuggling ring run by the evil Devlin Bowman. Bowman is arrested and not wanting his infant son Pistachio to receive the same dangerous future lifestyle as he and his lineage, Fabbrizio decides to keep his family's identity a secret.
Twenty-three years later, Fabbrizio runs an Italian restaurant in America with his wife and Pistachio. Bowman, fresh out of jail, kidnaps Fabbrizio and "Mama", forcing Fabbrizio to use his powers to steal legendary artifacts. After Fabbrizio's disappearance, Pistachio is visited by his grandfather, who reveals Pistachio's heritage and begins training him.
Pistachio gets the basics down and his grandfather gets him an assistant, Jennifer Baker, who is a little confused about what the job entails. The two find one of Bowman's cigars and learn of Bowman's scheme, as well as that he will be at an antiques fair the next day.
Pistachio and Jennifer go to the fair, with Pistachio disguised as an elderly woman. Bowman invites Jennifer to a party at his house. Pistachio goes to the party in disguise and distracts Bowman while Jennifer looks for clues.
That night, Pistachio and Jennifer look through the clues. Pistachio takes Jennifer home and they kiss. Bowman's men kidnap Jennifer. Pistachio breaks into Bowman's house to rescue Jennifer and his parents. Bowman has attached a mask of his own face to Fabbrizio's head. While the real Bowman escapes, Pistachio fights his father, who is brainwashed to think he is Bowman.
In the end, Pistachio helps his father snap out his trance, they free Mama, return the artifacts, Pistachio marries Jennifer and becomes an official Master of Disguise. However, Bowman still has the United States Constitution. The Disguiseys locate Bowman, defeat him and retrieve the Constitution.Bo Derek
The Master of Disguise was granted a PG certificate by the British Board of Film Classification for "mild language and mild comic violence". However, to obtain the PG certificate, seven seconds of material was cut, the reasons being "dangerous imitable technique, a series of head butts".
The film opened in Australia on July 31, 2002, in the United Kingdom on January 17, 2003, and in the United States on August 2, 2002 in 2,565 theaters and earned $12,554,650 in the domestic box office, ranking third for the weekend, behind Signs and the second weekend of Austin Powers in Goldmember. The film closed on November 28, 2002, having grossed $40,388,794 domestically and $3,022,207 internationally for a worldwide total of $43,411,001. When the film was released in the United Kingdom, it originally opened at #14, before falling out of the charts completely by the next weekend.
Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film as the 18th worst of the 2000s decade, with a 1% rating, its consensus reading: "An ill conceived attempt to utilize Dana Carvey's talent for mimicry, The Master of Disguise is an irritating, witless farce weighted down by sophomoric gags." On Metacritic, the film has a 12 out of 100 score based on 24 amateur critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike".
Roger Ebert reserved some praise for director Perry Andelin Blake's production design, as well as for Carvey's imitative abilities, but saw the overall movie as being "like a party guest who thinks he is funny and is wrong". Ebert also noted that the film is only 65 minutes long, but includes 15 minutes of credit cookies in order to qualify as a feature presentation. Jamie Russell at the BBC described the film as being so bad as to make other movies such as Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo seem like comic equivalents to Citizen Kane: "Never have so many jokes clunked off the screen to such a silent audience. And never has 80 minutes seemed like such an eternity."
Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, awarded the film two stars out of five, citing a limited number of amusing moments, but criticizing Carvey's characterizations and suggesting to the potential audience-member that "you might want to put the shotgun in your mouth". Adam Smith in the Radio Times drew attention to the "lame screenplay" and "barely coherent plot", and noted that "when the nearest thing to a genuine joke is the bad guy's propensity for breaking wind whenever he laughs, you can be pretty sure that you're not in the hands of comedy geniuses".
Alan Morrison, writing for Empire, suggested that it was no more than a feeble imitation of the character comedy of Mike Myers' Austin Powers series, concluding that The Master of Disguise was the single worst movie ever made: "a film about idiots, made by idiots, for idiots".
Bo Derek's cameo in the film earned her a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress, but lost to Madonna in Die Another Day.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on January 28, 2003.