Release: Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Written by: Doug Ellin
Directed by: Doug Ellin
There’s no denying how much the Entourage movie will fail to unite that which its namesake HBO series divided back in 2004. The cinematic revival will be regarded either as one of the more obvious examples of excessive fan service, or the heralding of a new era of one of modern television’s most meta entertainment vehicles.
There’s plenty of fuel for both arguments, though you won’t hear me complaining that there is now a two-hour long episode available in the big screen format.
In truth, the movie is likely to further polarize the two factions — those who have embraced the idea of tracing a young movie star’s personal and professional trajectory and those who haven’t — for Entourage is a properly conceived crowd-pleaser. If you’ve been along for the ride the return of Vincent Chase and his loudmouthed, fairly obnoxious New York brethren is a welcomed retreat back into the male fantasy of living dreams that once felt out of reach. Anyone approaching the material for the first time or with limited enthusiasm isn’t going to be moved to check out much beyond its pilot season. Perhaps not even beyond the pilot episode. The world surrounding Vincent Chase serves as its own self-sustaining economy; series creator Doug Ellin, even Mark Wahlberg, whose experience growing up in Hollywood is catalytic, and the fans thereof need not apologize or explain at length why the exclusivity works so beautifully.
Outside of meticulous, brilliant writing what granted the show its longevity was the camaraderie between four then-unknowns. That Entourage constantly brushed shoulders with much more recognizable names did nothing but confirm the show’s unique accessibility, a creation where movie stars are people and not just brand names. You could almost reach out and touch these individuals through the screen. If it’s not easy to identify with those who earn multi-million dollar paychecks (and it’s not), then the juxtaposition of ‘stars’ like the fictional Chase brothers alongside, say, Scarlett Johansson or in the case of the movie version, someone like Billy Bob Thornton makes for interesting career comparisons. That’s of course if you’re into that sort of thing.
Entourage may be four years “in the making,” though it feels as if no time has passed since we left Vince (Adrian Grenier), E (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) to their own pervy devices. That’s primarily because the film manifests as merely an extension of the same narrative that saw Vince grow from a new kid on the Hollywood block into a true celebrity, maturing through all manners of drug-addled self-aggrandizement and sexual encounters designed to separate the movie star from the individual.
Why there is this indignation that this extended episode doesn’t offer more than . . . well, more of the same, is anyone’s guess. The day-in-the-life experience would never work as a production with a singular narrative focus. The slightest deviation from what has worked so well in the past wouldn’t feel natural. Characters of flesh and blood, despite their materialistic obsession and an apparent preference for misogynistic lifestyles, have endeared themselves to those who understand that Entourage represents and values loyalty, friendship and dedication more than the sheen of its surface suggests. Rather than exaggerating these people in a story more befitting of a feature film, Ellin knows that the only way forward is to continue exploring how these individuals interact with a fictionalized and dramatized Hollywood landscape.
In 2015 Vince and his bros are wealthier than ever. It’s also easier than ever to fail in identifying with the stress and tension shared amongst the crew, as they all have risen to such prominence on the scene. That won’t stop us from having a good time with them, though. Ari the super agent (a never better Jeremy Piven) is trying to reconcile his professional and family life the best way he knows how. He’s left the agenting racket behind and currently runs his own studio. His priority is enabling Vince to rise to the ‘next level.’ Presumably this means becoming even more famous than he currently is — some kind of awards recognition would be nice. Vince wants to update the Jekyl and Hyde fable by not only starring in the project but directing it as well. It’s a decision that concerns Ari as much as Vince’s best friend/manager.
Turtle and Drama are similarly surprised by the ambition, especially given the position it would put all of them in should the film fail critically or commercially. Of course, since Turtle sold his tequila company to Mark Cuban it’s really Drama who is most concerned about that whole living by the freeway situation. After all, he’s still the one trying to break through in the industry. Vince’s Hyde represents the first investment Ari would be making as studio head, so what’s at stake is painfully obvious. The stakes are no different than before, and not really much higher, despite insistence from both Entourage‘s writers and performers that they are. Thornton is in as Texan billionaire financier Larsen McCredle, and along with his entitled son Travis (Haley Joel Osment), he represents the big money; the underbelly of the business of entertainment. While the pair are a welcomed addition to the ever-expanding list of extended cameos, Thornton and Osment do little to escape the mold of Entourage‘s conflict creation and resolution.
Turtle finds a new potential love interest in MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, while Drama is once again humiliated thanks to a viral video he unwittingly creates with all of his pent-up anger and aggression. E finds himself in an uncharacteristically awkward position when his bedding of two different women in the space of 24 hours yields some rather unsavory consequences, while Vince carries on getting most of the attention from male and female fans alike.
Yes indeed, very little has changed. Yet at the same time Entourage represents another leap forward in the maturation process of each of its players. The pursuit of women, prestige and boatloads more money may not be the most profound representation of human nature but it is consistent. And it all still rings true to the lifestyle these people have embraced since leaving Queens. It’d be ridiculous to say the wait has been killing anyone since Entourage went off the air in 2011 (though I’m sure a few diehards are claiming this to be so), but it’s certainly fun having another opportunity to dive back into this outrageously excessive culture. I’m sorry that I’m not sorry about my fascination with it.
Recommendation: Entourage is unabashedly a continuation of the series that became one of HBO’s most popular, and as such fans have a lot to look forward to. The film’s greatest weakness, I suppose, is its inability to offer anything to those unfamiliar with it or who couldn’t quite get into even the most popular episodes. This is very much an exclusive film and I understand completely the antipathy that will rise in the wake of its release.
Running Time: 104 mins.
Quoted: “I’m telling you. Because it is your job, along with going over budget and being short, to tell him these things.”
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