If my memory is still what it was, I remember finding the first three or four seasons of HBO’s series “Entourage” really fascinating and, yes, entertaining. As someone who observes and analyzes the byproduct of the world on display in the series from a distance, I was intrigued at this peak behind the curtain known as Fame, in which there seem to be two kinds of people: the players and the hangers on. And pretty much everyone in the second group is desperate to get in the first group.
In many ways, Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) was the least interesting guy in the show because it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that he would eventually become successful for his acting (whether he was any good at it is another question). As a result, your eyes tended to drift to those surround him—his hometown pals Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and his brother Johnny (or Drama, played by Kevin Dillon—the in joke being that in real life Dillon was the lesser known/respected brother of Matt Dillon). And this tight-knit crew supported each other’s Hollywood dreams in all their unlikely forms. Eric, or “E”, wanted to a be talent manager/film producer of some sort, but his storylines always seemed to be supplanted by the relationship drama between him and on-again/off-again girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who, in the film, is many months pregnant with E’s baby, even though the two aren’t together.
The most desperate to be seen as some more than just Vince’s driver, Turtle started a tequila company and made millions (exactly how many remains a mystery) selling it to Mark Cuban, so now he chooses to drive Vince & Co. around. Drama is and shall forever be a classic struggling actor, still going on auditions, still taking supporting roles in his brother’s big-budget films, still staring in the sun of fame until his eyes go blind. The fifth member of this unbreakable wolfpack is Vinnie’s agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven, who won three Emmys for the role, over eight seasons), who, at best, tolerated the other three guys on behalf of his favorite client.
What made “Entourage” pop was that it felt authentic for a time. Vince and Ari climbed the success ladder together, and many of Hollywood’s most famous faces (actors, executives, models, etc.) made cameos on the show to add to the feel of so many celebrities packed in such a tight piece of real estate, always bumping into each other. So why am I spending so much time talking about “Entourage” the TV show? Because there is literally no distinguishing feature in its transition to the big screen. There is nothing new and zero added depth anywhere to be found. ENTOURAGE the movie is simply the “Further Adventures of…”. So expect more gratuitous cameos (even more actually, since Vince is now full-fledge famous and Ari is a studio head); more of E trying to be a producer; more of Vince upping his game, this time as a director of his next project; more of Turtle driving and running point on corralling ladies to party with; more of Drama struggling for acting work; and more of Ari wheeling and dealing and yelling and bursting blood vessels in his head.
The fact that creator-writer-director Doug Ellin couldn’t be bothered to build on his and the show’s success is telling. And why this film had to be on the big screen and not a straight-to-HBO is beyond me. The fact that there are actually people out there saying “If you were a fan of the show, you’re going to love this” is maddening because it implies that fans of the show don’t want anything more than what the show gave them for nearly 10 years (and let’s be honest, the last couple years of “Entourage” were abysmal). Hell, even some small vertical movement would have been a step in the right direction. But no, the movie does exactly what we’ve seen a hundred times before—Vince dates someone famous (in this case, it’s supermodel/GONE GIRL star Emily Ratajkowski); Turtle finds a soul mate in UFC Champion Ronda Rousey, and the two begin a truly odd courtship; Drama has his hopes lifted when Vince manages to get him an important role in the film he’s directing, one that could actually spell Oscar; and E is having baby and barely gives a shit.
All of that being said and despite the been-there-done-that qualities of the story, the small segments of the film that offer something new are the best parts, most of which revolve around Vince’s movie, an updated take on the Jekyll and Hyde story simply title HYDE. We see very little of the actual film, but as “Entourage” always taught us, the actual art is the least important part in the Hollywood equation. The “new” comes in the form of Texas financier Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton) and his idiot son Travis (Haley Joel Osment), neither of whom know a lick about making movies, but they (especially Travis) know a whole lot about writing checks and giving their unsolicited opinion on HYDE. It was actually fun to watch Ari have to face these two pushy money men and show a type of restraint because he actually needs more cash to finish Vince’s over-budget epic. Osment is particularly convincing as a sleazy, entitled jackass who comes back to Hollywood with Ari to oversee the final stages of post production and give his notes on Vince’s movie.
What’s particularly strange about ENTOURAGE is that the few people who get to watch HYDE think it’s genius, so the film just becomes a waiting game to see how Vince and Ari will come out on top with their uncut version of the movie. As a result, the film is padded with returning faces, including Debi Mazar as Vince’s publicist, Constance Zimmer as studio exec Dana Gordon, Rex Lee as Ari’s former assistant Lloyd, Perrey Reeves as Mrs. Ari, and even Vince’s directing buddy Billy Walsh (Rhys Coiro); as well as an outlandish number of stupid cameos from Liam Neeson to Pharrell to ENTOURAGE executive producer (and inspiration for Chase’s character) Mark Wahlberg, who does manage to get a TED 2 plus in for his troubles. And let’s not forget the parade of nameless hot bodies that drift in and out of party scenes, in and out of pools and bars and clubs and restaurants. I hate to say it, but it gets tiresome real fast.
I’ll admit, I get a chuckle that, with the exception of Piven (who was kind of famous before the show), none of the lead actors in ENTOURAGE have elevated their celebrity due to the show. Even stranger is that Jerry Ferrara might be the most famous one in the cast thanks to appearances in the two THINK LIKE A MAN movies (he’s the white guy), LONE SURVIVOR, and BATTLESHIP. Because Piven gets so much screen time and is still so much barely contained lightning in bottle as Ari, the film still manages have moments of electricity. But as a fan of the show for a great deal of its run, I was genuinely shocked at how much the film seems to loathe its fan base by giving it more of the same and not an iota extra. ENTOURAGE represents the bare minimum effort, and that will sink in almost immediately and slowly crush you. Enjoy the contempt!