UK TV review: The Pentaverate
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Laurence Boyce | On 22, May 2022
Typical. You wait ages for Mike Myers then loads turn up at once. After a relatively long absence from high-profile roles such as Austin Powers and Shrek, the Canadian comedian returns with a lavish Netflix comedy-drama, with the emphasis very much on the former. The Pentaverate certainly embodies a creditable ambition with Myers playing numerous roles in a story that blends conspiracy theories with a homage to TV shows of the past and lots of lowbrow comedy – lots and lots of lowbrow comedy.
The Pentaverate is a secret society of powerful individuals who secretly run the world. However, unlike most mysterious cabals, they are actually benevolent. Dr Hobart Clark (Keegan-Michael Key) finds himself as the newest member of the group of five, which includes Lord Lordington (Mike Myer), media mogul Bruce Baldwin (Mike Myers), former Russian oligarch Mishu Ivanov (Mike Myers) and ex-music manager Shep Gordon (Mike Myers). But with his predecessor dying in mysterious circumstances, Clark is discovering that there might be something rotten at the heart of The Pentaverate. Also discovering this is intrepid Canadian local reporter Ken Scarbourough (Dana Carvey – OK, not really: Mike Myers), who finds himself on an epic quest to reveal The Pentaverate to the world.
There are so many things about The Pentaverate that are really good. Director Tim Kirkby has a great sense of style, mixing some grandiose ideas with the slightly plastic-fantastic feel of 80s US TV shows. Elements of The Prisoner also loom large throughout alongside a few choice pop culture references. It makes for a heady brew of influences that, while sometimes a bit derivative, is clearly done from a place of love.
The technical aspects are also top notch, with the make-up on Myers particularly well done (without the gimmick you’d be hard pressed to tell it was him under the Lord Lordington prosthetics), while the cast in general are all game, with appearances from the likes of Ken Jeong and Jennifer Saunders, plus a mickey-taking voiceover from Jeremy Irons. Even the score done by British electronica band Orbital is wonderful, with the classic The Box making a particularly apropos choice of opening credits music.
As good as all these things can be, they’re unable to compensate for the fact that the central story and gags aren’t very good at all. The story – including, near the end, earnest attempts at lamenting the state of the modern world – is thin and disjointed. And the comedy is just a string of poo poo, wee wee and sex jokes that are meant to be bawdy but come across as childish and forced. There are a few moments that work – in particular some meta-humour that takes a swipe at Netflix and Myers himself, as well as an orgy scene, in which Myers is definitely not shy, that thumbs a nose at popular culture deciding that female nudity is OK but male nudity is verboten. But these moments are few and far between.
Ultimately, The Pentaverate feels like something of a missed opportunity. While coming from a place of love, with Myers bringing in a lot of the British humour tropes beloved from his childhood, it forgets that toilet humour can’t really hold a project of this ambition together. A sometimes interesting diversion that never quite fulfils its promise.