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Mike Myers Attempts Comeback with Inconsistent The Pentaverate on Netflix

It feels like forever since Mike Myers dominated the comedy scene with hits like “Wayne’s World” and “Austin Powers.” In fact, it's felt like he’s been largely retired, popping up in projects like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but generally absent from the genre that made him a household name. And so it’s kind of exciting that a writer/comedian who has been so funny in the past wouldn’t just quietly come back to comedy but do so with a project drenched in a style so uniquely his own. “The Pentaverate” actually builds itself from a joke in Myers’ underrated “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” wherein the conspiracy-driven Stuart speaks of a secret society made up of the five wealthiest powers in the world, including The Vatican and Colonel Sanders, of course. Clearly once conceived as a movie, “The Pentaverate” is now a six-episode Netflix comedy series with Myers himself playing more than a half-dozen characters. Sadly, the occasionally inspired bits of humor get buried in amateurish stuff that needed another rewrite or an editor. The real conspiracy is how often talented comedians go to Netflix and can’t find the rhythm they did elsewhere—look at Judd Apatow with “The Bubble” or Steve Carell with “Space Force.” There’s something just off with these projects, almost as if comedy needs to work within restrictions to be effective. “The Pentaverate” rambles and repeats itself too often, even if the glimpses of Myers’ undeniable skill almost make it work and might be just enough for those who have missed him so.

Myers’ best character in the project is Ken Scarborough, the kind of sweet Canadian local news journalist who has never really broken a big story as he does bland human interest pieces. He goes to something called CanConCon (Canadian Conspiracy Convention) in search of something major, and basically stumbles onto The Pentaverate, partnering with another journalist named Reilly (Lydia West) and a conspiracy nut named Anthony (Myers), who is fueled by an Alex Jones-esque nut named Rex Smith (you guessed it, also Myers). The “Saturday Night Live” star also plays four of the members of The Pentaverate: Lord Lordington, Bruce Baldwin, Mishu Ivanov, and, believe it or not, Shep Gordon (the real life rock and roll manager who was the subject of Myers’ “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon”).

In the pilot, The Pentaverate is revealed as an ancient society who has been trying to influence the world for generations—in a funny bit, Jeremy Irons introduces each episode as himself, varying the background details each time. After the death of Pentaverate member Jason Eccleston (yes, Myers), they recruit a nuclear physicist named Dr. Hobart Clark (Keegan-Michael Key), the man who they believe can stop climate change. It gets, well, chaotic from there, and also involves Debi Mazar, Ken Jeong, and Jennifer Saunders in supporting roles. Rob Lowe and Maria Menounos play themselves. Not kidding.

Myers isn’t remotely altering or hiding his sense of humor in “The Pentaverate” with several scenes of power players at big tables that recall Dr. Evil in his lair in “Austin Powers” and even a “Shrek” reference. It’s not quite fair to call it a “Mike Myers Greatest Hits,” but it’s undeniably a product of its creator’s comedic history. For that reason alone, the hardcore fans of his movie and “SNL” work might be able to overlook the show’s problems, including the fact that it's like a long movie cut up into six chapters and no one really wants a three-hour Mike Myers movie. Comedy is about pacing and timing, and these elongated Netflix projects most often falter in that department. Every time “The Pentaverate” develops a rhythm, it goes on a tangent to fill space—typically one that shows off the fact that this show is allowed to be very R-rated on Netflix. It’s like a stand-up set that has some good material surrounded by 45 minutes of filler. And Myers’ filler is more aggressive than some other comedian’s, built on silly accents and wordplay that goes on forever. The repetition is often the joke, which works in quick hits in a film or sketch but not so much over three hours.

And yet there are moments in “The Pentaverate” that work. The main character of Scarborough is a funny fish out of water—a kindly Canadian gentleman tossed into the American cesspool of conspiracy theories. He could hold a movie together for about 90-100 minutes. And one almost hopes that “The Pentaverate” is successful enough to bring Myers back to a project with collaborators who know how to rein in his wilder instincts and focus his often-very-sharp humor. Maybe that one's not on Netflix.

Whole series screened for review.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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