'The Pentaverate' Will Not Bring About the Mike Myers Renaissance Directed by Tim Kirkby
Starring Mike Myers, Keegan-Michael Key, Ken Jeong, Debi Mazar, Lydia West, Rob Lowe
Published May 10, 2022Some of Mike Myers's comedy peers have undergone critical reappraisals in recent years: Adam Sandler starred in prestige indie Uncut Gems and knocked it out of the park with his 100% Fresh standup special, while Jim Carrey took a beloved victory lap in Sonic the Hedgehog and even appeared as the narrator on the Weeknd's Dawn FM.
Mike Myers, on the other hand, has mostly been absent for the past decade-plus, and The Pentaverate is his first proper star vehicle since 2008's famously maligned The Love Guru (or 2010's Shrek Forever After, if you count voice work). This would, theoretically, be a great moment for Myers to remind viewers of his past glories and update his comedy for a new era, revealing the talent and sophistication at the heart of his humour.
The Pentaverate, unfortunately, is little more than a cheap excuse for Myers to put on some prosthetics and do silly voices. The six-episode series explores a centuries-old secret society of Illuminati-style figures who control world events from the shadows. As the introduction voiceover explains: "Throughout the centuries, there have been many secret organizations. What makes the Pentaverate different? They're nice."
Myers plays four of the Pentaverate's five members, plus various other characters. Each character is seemingly designed for the sole purpose of giving Myers another silly accent to do: the posh English guy, the Russian oligarch, the Australian mogul, etc. Keegan-Michael Key plays Dr. Hobart Clark, a nuclear physicist who has been newly recruited into the group. Ken Jeong, as an obnoxious billionaire who's also recruited into the Pentaverate, sells the thin jokes with as much gusto as possible, coming closer than anyone else here to actually being funny.
Canadian viewers might get a kick of out Myers's tribute to his homeland, as one of his many roles is as Ken Scarborough, an investigative journalist from Toronto attempting to expose the Pentaverate. But even this joke, which ought to be cute, ends up being frustratingly out-of-date; Scarborough's sidekick, Reilly Clayton (Lydia West), wears a T-shirt that reads, "Canada: living the American dream without the violence since 1867." It's a smug vision of Canadian quaintness that's painfully outdated and inaccurate, and it grows more grating with each "aboot" and "okey-dokey."
Myers stuffs every moment of The Pentaverate with silly jokes. But in his frantic attempts to get laughs, he ends up beating his own jokes to death — like how an initially funny reference to a viral TikTok trend called the "Kiss the Starfish Challenge" gets progressively less clever with each reference to self-rimming. Every joke is over-sold, with clumsy punchlines and winky self-references, such as when a Netflix exec pauses a scene to comment on a scene's profanity, which breaks the fourth wall without any sort of purpose, as if simply being meta counts as cleverness. Allusions to Shrek and Key & Peele are simply references that don't even qualify as jokes. Other gags include guy whose poop smells bad and woman who is horny.
Was Myers always this unfunny? Do his most famous works hold up when nostalgia is taken out of the equation? We might find out soon enough, since Myers has been talking about bringing Austin Powers back for a fourth movie. But, judging by The Pentaverate, it's hard to be excited about Myers's return to the spotlight. (Netflix)