Saturday, July 2, 2022

‘The Pentaverate’ is a reminder of what Netflix has taken from us

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Shreya Christina
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Do you want to know what I’m missing? Mid-budget studio comedies, the kind that filled in the gaps in the cinema’s annual calendar. The kind of lightweight, energy-efficient ride you and your friends could watch in the multiplex on a Saturday morning. Often they had a Saturday Night Live alumnus on a first foray into the actual film industry, but just as well not. Sometimes the movies did well, but more often they didn’t, underperforming until they were given a second lease of life through cable TV, video rentals, or even DVD sales. You know, things like So I married an ax killer

There aren’t many theater-released mid-budget comedy movies these days, and for good reason. Comedy is a more subjective art form than, say, action, and doesn’t travel the world as well as, say, action. There’s no room these days for a genuine comedy with a budget in the low double digits given the economy. Hell, even something as flat and awful as… Holmes and Watson cost $42 million, and could not recoup that amount at the box office. I’m sure that film will eventually catch on with a future generation of kids and stoners who enjoy it as much as I have a soft spot for some of these early ’90s comedies. I was too young to go to the cinema. see.

Of course, these mid-budget comedies are priced out of theaters and straight to our homes, thanks to Netflix. Regardless of the quality, movies like the bubble and Don’t Look Up would have been put on a multiplex roster quite easily in a previous era. But Netflix’s desire to sit on the couch and milk as much of every bit of IP it owns is a big deal. Mainly because of his insistence on taking ideas that solid multiplex movies would have made and dragging them into time-wasting miniseries. There’s a reason so many Netflix series have tempo issues, because a fun 90-minute story fills up to four, six, eight, or 12 hours.

What a fun sequel to talk about the quintetNetflix’s latest comedy with a depending-on-who-you-ask long-awaited return of Mike Myers. On the surface, it’s a comedy about a secret society that helped shape the course of human history, except they’re (apparently) nice. Myers plays eight characters, given his endless love for prosthetics and desire to be remembered as the Peter Sellers of his generations. He is joined by Lydia West, Keegan-Michael Key, Debi Mazar, Ryn Alleyne, Neil Mullarchy, Jenifer Saunders and Ken Jeong. And there’s plenty of A-list talent behind the camera too, with Orbital as the soundtrack and Tim Kirkby directing.

Our star is Ken Scarborough, a local TV journalist who is retiring in Toronto and destined to retire. In search of a big story to save his career, he visits the Canadian Conspiracy Convention (CanConCon) and discovers The Pentaverate. From there, his journey is to infiltrate the organization and, with the help of his camera person Reilly, try to bring it to light. Except, of course, that Scarborough walks into a conspiracy hatched by one of the Pentaverate’s own reasons for reasons that are pretty obvious once you see who’s running the thing.

Myers is a child of the ’70s, but his expat British parents gave him a taste for all things British and ’60s. A lot of the quintet is wholesale discontinued from the legendary series from the 60s the prisoner and fans of that show will get a kick out of seeing what was stolen. Myers’ love for the show even extends to stealing the best joke in the series, although the Canadian manages to break the punch here. Hell, even the shadowy cabal’s helicopters are the same make as what was used to fly people in and out of the village.

(As an aside: are we living in the age of celebrities producing fanfiction on a big budget? After all, this is the prisoner riff comes just a few years after Seth MacFarlane was able to launch his own Star Trek series.)

Sadly, despite the wealth of talent here, the quintet falls a bit flat as it is clearly in the wrong size. There’s no evidence, as far as I can see, that the movie was originally a screenplay and then expanded into a TV-friendly three hours, but it’s certainly feels like this† You can feel the story stretch as characters wait for their plot thread to start again. Do we need multiple sets of people driving around in a “hyperloop” pulling g-force faces? No, but you can imagine Reed Hastings behind the camera, tapping his watch and insisting that the play time be as close to three hours as possible.

This stretching also means that every joke in the show’s arsenal is repeated a little too often. You know that friend who really got into it… Austin Powers and kept yelling lines from the movie in your face? Well, brace yourself for a lot of jokes about how Canadians are nice, dicks are funny, no, Canadians are really funand dicks are really, really funny† Oh and sex jokes, the kind your pre-teen nephew likes to make, you get some of those too. The neater, smarter touches, like the fourth wall-breaking Netflix spokesperson going back and editing some sequences to “remove some of the “blasphemy” also gets tiresome with repetition.

Unfortunately, while the show can be funny, and it’s a joy to see Myers return somewhat to his roots, the show is drags† I’m sure it would have been a lighthearted 89 minute film that would have allowed viewers to forgive the mistakes. It would be an interesting experiment to hand this over to a talented editor and see if they couldn’t shorten this to something much more peaceful. Until then, though, it’s up to Myers and Prisoner only diehards, at least until a whole new generation of kids is old enough to find it in the infinite scroll twenty years from now.

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