People stopped looking for Mike Myers a while ago. That’s not unusual for most “Saturday Night Live” alumni, even those who enjoy some notoriety after their tenure at Studio 8H ended inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The David Spades, Dana Carveys and Will Fortes of the world will always be with us, making cameo appearances or appearing on sitcoms.
But Myers ranks among the greats – one of the guys who didn’t just make movies, but set the bar for what an “SNL” movie should be for a while. “Wayne’s World” and the “Austin Powers” films – “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery”, “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Austin Powers in Goldmember” – have made Myers one of the most popular in the United States. 1990s.
In the Aughts, he insinuated himself into the hearts of millennials and Gen Z by becoming the voice of Shrek, joined by “SNL” all-star star Eddie Murphy.
Comedy fans always wondered what Murphy was up to, mostly since his legacy was kept alive by the heirs to his mantle — Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, among others. Myers, on the other hand, may have been a little easier to forget because he was so tied to a time on the show where his character and his catchphrases defined him. He was great at getting lost in wigs, latex prosthetics and funny voices. As his featherweight Netflix limited series “The Pentaverate” proves, he still is.
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If you’re not bowled over by the eight rubbery faces Myers runs through his six episodes, maybe it’s because they’re only slightly removed from the versions of his characters you’ve laughed with before but whose humor seems obsolete in 2022.
Myers’ return to the classic comfort of rubber masks and chewing gum feels less like a question of “Where did he go?” that “Does he know what year we are in?
Even the show’s setting, inside a 60s-style mod lair that houses the support structure of a five-man secret society that is quietly shaping society for the greater good, has an contiguity of Dr Evil. Good for anyone whose love for all things shagadelic hasn’t waned.
Several profiles over the years mention periods of four or five years where he lets ideas bake, which sometimes produces charming pieces like his 2013 documentary “Supermench: The Legend of Shep Gordon” and in others results in “The Love Guru”, an abominable heap best left in 2008.
For anyone paying attention to events in the global “SNL” graduate universe, Myers’ return to the classic comfort of rubber masks and chewing gum sounds less like a question of “Where did he go?” that “Does he realize what year it is?”
Mike Myers as Ken Scarborough, Lydia West as Reilly Clayton and Mike Meyers as Anthony Landsdowne in “The Pentaverate” (Netflix)Not all ‘SNL’ actors go for greatness, but those with some career longevity display a willingness to move beyond the physical slapstick that allowed them to grab the limelight and Lorne’s favor. Michael. Some former “SNL” performers found success staying in their wheelhouse, namely Seth Meyers, who turned his successful run on “Weekend Update” into making the “Late Night” brand more politically incisive.
Others remain such an outsized presence in popular culture that we don’t need to explain why. We just have to drop their names: Tina Fey. Amy Poehler. Kristen Wigg. Maya Rodolphe.
There’s Will Ferrell and Andy Samberg, guys who can still wear a movie, in Ferrell’s case, or a Samberg sitcom.
Artists like Bill Hader and Adam Sandler stretched out in drama long before we stopped associating them with their late-night awkwardness. Wiig did the same, as did Rudolph and Fey. Their work in independent films has allowed us to see their range to inoculate them from being locked into comedies forever, even if comedy is where their hearts may be as performers and producers.
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Hader, in fact, provides today’s version of the ideal model of via “Barry,” a dark-as-night comedy that also allows him to be dark, vulnerable, and downright creepy. Even as Stefon, Hader was very much about himself.
Murphy did, and it gave him a string of hit family movies starting with the remake of “The Nutty Professor.” Long before that, he had also proven that he could act in “48 hours” action movies. Thereafter, he went on to garner Oscar nominations with his work in “Dreamgirls” and a Golden Globe nod for “Dolemite Is My Name.”
I cite these examples to make it clear that while these folks established themselves as actionable comedic forces, Myers never fully escaped the closet of prosthetics and parody he built for himself. It may be on purpose.
His major example of playing straight, “54”, became a cult classic but bombed when first released. That, along with his low-key cameo in “Inglourious Basterds,” proves he’s capable of more than dick jokes. (Myers’ other memorable dramatic role was his unscripted appearance on the Hurricane Katrina fundraising telethon alongside Kanye West when the latter said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”)
Mike Myers as Ken Scarborough, Richard McCabe as Exalted Pikeman Higgins in “The ‘Pentaverate'” (Zoe Midford/Netflix)“The Pentaverate” is an extension of a joke Myers drops in his 1993 vehicle “So I Married an Ax Murderer”, one of those movies that was more beloved in his afterlife than in cinemas. It’s also one of the few times we see Myers’ natural face, playing an ordinary, likeable guy who isn’t masked by fake jowls, contact lenses, and mops of synthetic hair. Of course, he also plays a number of these guys. But it came the same year as “Wayne’s World 2,” neither of which did well.
Four years later came the first “Austin Powers”. . . and since then, the masks have changed but not the humor.
Granted, there’s a straightforward sweetness to “The Pentaverate” that defies criticism, which is likely why Netflix hasn’t made it available for reviewers to review. People who love Myers’ work are sure to love it, as will those who share his deep penchant for British sketch humor, Monty Python in particular. The roles he wrote for Jennifer Saunders (“Absolutely Fabulous”) and Keegan-Michael Key honor their legacy in a way their fans should appreciate.
Regardless, it’s a very strange decision for an artist who has been out of the spotlight for so long to return with a comeback engine fueled by nostalgia for the great moments of his career. His role in David O. Russell’s next period piece could change direction yet, but for now, it’s like he’s aware that people tend to like a concept of him as opposed to who. It is. To his audience, Myers is a jovial fairy-tale ogre, or a swinging spy, or a random Canadian with a Scottish brogue. But it also provides an answer to why we haven’t been following Myers this whole time. Maybe it’s because we’ve never really seen it before.
“The Pentaverate” is currently streaming on Netflix. Watch a trailer below, via YouTube.
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