Entourage (dir. Doug Ellin)

Posted: June 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

“Entourage” does not work as a stand-alone film.  Unlike, say, Joss Whedon’s “Serenity”, which continued the cancelled TV series “Firefly”, you can only enjoy the “Entourage” movie if you have seen the TV show and have a decent familiarity with the characters and who they are. If you do not, the film feels like three paper-thin B stories where nothing important is truly at stake orbiting around an A story which is only interesting to people who are already interested in the inside-baseball of moviemaking.  Honestly, this is the first TV-to-film continuation that truly feels like just a longer episode of the series.  It doesn’t feel “bigger” (the show was already on HBO and had access to the nudity, profanity, and drug content that most TV series outside of cable channels with lenient Standards & Practices departments cannot show), and the TV series already had plenty of celebrity cameos.  The budget certainly doesn’t seem to have expanded the scope of the TV show to movie-size (most of the film still takes place in L.A.).  Nope, this is an episode you have to pay for. Then again, you had to pay for HBO too.

Hell, unlike other TV-to-film ventures, this film even keeps the same theme song and a similar opening credits sequence.  I actually appreciated this.  I hate when these films try to ignore the fact that they were once TV shows, and it wouldn’t feel like “Entourage” without it.  So, I must say that I liked the TV series, which went off the air 4 years ago after 8 seasons.  The show was pretty much adolescent wish fulfillment.  If you’ve dreamed to making it in Hollywood, being rich, having sex with lots of beautiful people out of your league, and still maintaining some artistic integrity in the interim, “Entourage” was the show that let you live that fantasy vicariously through actor Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier), his not-very-talented washed up brother Drama (Kevin Dillon), his short best friend manager E (Kevin Connelly), and his crude, Jersey Shore-esque pal who through the series ends up losing weight and getting rich himself, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara).  There was also Vinnie’s loudmouthed, bombastic, egotistical, caustic, and hilarious agent Ari (Jeremy Piven), loosesly based on real life Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, who fulfilled many viewers secret wish of being able to demean people dumber than you with sarcasm and yelling.  The show worked because it was an adolescent fantasy.  Many people who enjoy movies want to be part of that world for various reasons, and each character gave the viewer someone to identify with as either someone they are kind of like (Drama or Turtle) or someone they wish they could be.  I personally identified with E since I am short and enjoyed the behind-the-scene references that only people read Variety and Deadline Hollywood and, way back when, Nikki Fink could appreciate.

The show wasn’t always a positive portrayal. Vinnie, who has always been a blander and more boring character than the rest of the cast, had plot lines involving drug addiction and a passion project film that was a critical and commercial flop, for instance.  Yet, for the most part, the show dealt with characters having problems we wish we had, and that’s exactly where the movie is.  The film will be unsatisfying to people who didn’t see the series because the characters now all have good-to-great lives, and their “problems” in the film are pretty much 1% Problems that even people with First World Problems will look at and sneer. Hell, in this film the main storyline for E is that the hot ex-girlfriend he impregnated (Emmanuelle Chrique) can’t get over a mistake from his past, so he ends up sleeping with two hot women in 24 hours, and that may come back to haunt him and ruin his chances with his hot-ex. Yeah, some people have it rough. I personally liked that the shortest, nicest, dorkiest of the main cast has the most sex in this movie, though, again showcasing the film’s main purpose of adolescent wish fulfillment.

The main plot involves Vinnie making his directorial debut with a film called “Hyde”, which is apparently some sort of post-apocalyptic, dystopian spin on Jekyll and Hyde.  We see one scene from this film-within-a-film and it looks like garbage, but apparently in the universe of “Entourage” it’s a masterpiece. However, Vinnie needs more money to finish the film, and it’s already over budget.  This causes Ari to have to run to the Texan co-financier of the film (Billy Bob Thornton) and beg for more money to complete this thing.  The Texan, who doesn’t care a lick about movies beyond their potential to return on investment, decides that his son (Haley Joel Osment, who is great in the film and looks like he had a ton of fun making it) needs to see a rough-cut of the film and report back to his dad, and that will decide if daddy sinks more money into the thing.  So okay, the movie is about how people in Hollywood, who are both business-minded AND creative, hate interference from interlopers who only know business and know NOTHING about creativity.  The film making “Hyde” a good movie in-universe kind of stacks the deck, as most $100 million+ films are not masterpieces, and a movie that expensive which is not already based on a marketable franchise IS risky (hence why studios these days look to co-finance their movies and minimize exposure if they tank).  The film is really just a chance for Hollywood to feel snooty and superior to other businessmen they don’t like, and express the frustration that their business model now nearly requires doing business with “outsiders”.   Hey, I may hate rich southern capitalists too, but Hollywood executives aren’t exactly the champions of artistic quality this film would like us to believe they are.

Despite Vinnie being the main character, he’s barely in the film.  The main plot is mostly driven by Piven’s Ari (he did win a few Emmys for this role, after all) and Osment’s character, who ends up having a very predictable and shallow reason for not liking “Hyde”.  Aside from E’s subplot, we also have Turtle wanting desperately to date UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, and Drama worried that his small part in “Hyde” will be cut, and also trying not to get beaten up by the boyfriend of a girl he was sexting with.  That’s our story.

The film is slightly less funny than some of the best episodes of the series, and perhaps too much humor is based on showing us a cameo, my favorites of which are Bob Saget (he was on a few episodes of the show, too) and Warren Buffet, of all people.  There’s a healthy amount of female nudity in the film, again to please the adolescent fantasies of the audience, and it’s about as gratuitous as film nudity can get.  The inside baseball stuff isn’t as inside as the show used to get, but even having an entire film plotting around movie studios versus co-financers is a bit weird for a summer movie potentially aiming at a wider audience than the show had.

If you liked the show, you’ll like the film.  If you hated the show, you’ll hate the film. If you’ve never seen the show, you’ll see the film as paper-thin, lacking in conflict and character development, and maybe get a few chuckles but nothing more. I tended to think the TV show, throughout it’s run, ranged anywhere from B+ to a C depending on season and episode, and the movie is about a B.

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