by Philip Price
Having never seen a single episode of HBO's hit series surrounding a group of friends that follow their up and coming movie star friend to the promise land of Hollywood I went into the feature film version with no expectation and no knowledge of what I was getting into. Four years after the series has ended, the film and its co-creator/co-writer/director Doug Ellin gives fans of the show a recap of what these guys have been up to while introducing newbies, such as myself, to the core characters and the molds from which they come. If you're as unaware as I then the only thing you'd probably heard about “Entourage” was the fact it was produced by Mark Wahlberg and was loosely based on his experiences as a naive kid from Boston learning to navigate this strange world of the wealthy that is all in the name of making movies and making a lot of money from those movies. Money is power in Hollywood and there is no greater power and yet in what is barely an hour and forty-five minute movie the glamour already began to wear thin. The pointless partying and finagling was understood to be the norm on any random Tuesday afternoon, but like most of these people’s lives, there is no substance to the going-ons of this movie that documents their exploits. What this says about the series, I'm not sure, but I know that it gives me no further interest in going back to see what all the fuss was about my junior year of high school. Instead, I'm more curious as to how much of a payoff this is for fans of the series that have been waiting for more closure or further adventures since the show wrapped in 2011. All of that said, given the premise and clear tone of what we're dealing with here, I don't know what more you could expect from a feature-length version of this kind of story. It is smarmy to the max, repulsive even in some aspects and slightly sickening depending on how much thought you care to give it. The execution unfortunately is unlike its characters in that it feels minimal and rather ordinary when, at the very least, it should be anything but that.
Given my knowledge of where the series ended is limited to an article recap from the day after it aired it seems that the film does little but retract some of the strides made for the characters over the course of at least the final season in order to deliver more of what fans want and then essentially ending things on the same note if not simply a little further down the road. That being said, the film does have a hook in that movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) has decided his next project will be different in that it will also mark his directorial debut. Of course, his buddies or rather, ahem, his "entourage" that includes childhood friends Eric or simply "E" (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) as well as half-brother Johnny aka Drama (Kevin Dillon) are all for it as long as they seemingly get a piece of the pie. Vince's former agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who supposedly retired in the series finale to spend more time with wife Melissa (Perrey Reeves) and their son has since gotten back in the game as the head of his own studio and will of course risk everything on producing Vince's directorial debut with only the pure, ultimately superfluous opinion that he doesn't think Vince can ever fail him. It's all rather convoluted given Ellin and his script attempt to give each member of the gang their own storyline while stuffing the development of these characters from the previous eight seasons of the show into the almost two-hour production for those unfamiliar to the material. The thing is, everyone knows this is a take-off of a show and if they don't they're not buying tickets, and so there is no need to develop these characters in any other way than pushing their narratives forward. If what I've read is any indication is seems this film is more an excuse to tread familiar ground and relive the good ole' days rather than introduce anything new or give those who once loved the show reason to love it more.
Granted, I've never felt more ill-equipped to write a review, but I like to at least attempt to see everything that gets a wide release couldn't keep me away and I'd be lying if I didn't say the trailers didn't look appealing. If nothing else, what the film has going for it is the inside look at what it might be like to learn the ropes of the business that is Hollywood and the ins and outs of what it takes to break through as well as figuring out that everyone has an angle. Given our core group of characters are well-established at this point though, E serving as Vince's manager/producer, Turtle as a constant organizer who has come into a fortune of his own with Johnny Drama continuing to be nothing short of a clinger. Johnny's arc is the most depressing given his reality will never meet his aspirations or expectations, but even this storyline is upended by giving every character a picture perfect ending. In short: much of this isn't believable and thus calls into question that single hook the film has for those not familiar with the show. The film is so avert to being subtle that the main conflict between Vince's movie and Johnny's plot is marked by the playing of The Rolling Stone's "Beast of Burden" indicating to any aware audience member that there is nothing more to take away here than what is being offered on the surface. The most interesting storyline goes to Connolly's Eric who is drawn into something of a love triangle after going out on a limb and doing something his character wouldn't typically do (as well as being partially under the influence of drugs thanks to Johnny). Eric's ex, Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), is pregnant with his child and yet with only a few lines of dialogue an entire series worth of relationship drama seems to be undone. While the momentum for this sticky situation builds nicely and somewhat naturally Ellin pokes a hole in it so quickly so as to resolve all of the other character arcs in a timely fashion that there is little tension not to mention the absence of any impact in the final act that is supposed to be the catalyst to actually bring the gang back together and put their escapades into perspective.
The movie as a whole takes advantage of its setting by infusing as many celebrity cameos as possible and even making an entire plot point out of the presence of one, Emily Ratajkowski (“Gone Girl”), but it never returns to the story. Not only does Ratajkowski's appearance serve to simply set-up a plot point so as to, again, try to create some kind of tension later in the film, but also as a reason for Armie Hammer to show up in an amusing cameo (which isn't congruent with his real-life given he's been married since 2010 and not to Ratajkowski). Speaking of cameos (and I promise this isn't giving anything away) Turtle's entire reason for existence here is to try and score a date with Ronda Rousey playing herself. While I understand the appeal of Rousey as a strong female presence (something severely needed in a film where most of the women are little more than objects to look at and drool over) her acting is still atrocious. While I didn't mind her in last year’s “Expendables 3” what she has done in both this and “Furious 7” have been more than awful. More power to her for capitalizing on her popularity and making some extra cash, but I would have much rather seen the likes of Gina Carano in these roles.
I guess I should also mention the presence of Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment in the film. Thornton's bit is little more than an extended cameo as Larsen McCredle, a wealthy Texan who finances all of Gold's films, but his perspective on the dealings of Hollywood would have been a more interesting film given Thornton's actual background. Osment does fine for the material he's given as well and seems willing to go to any length for a laugh these days, but again, his real-life experience in transitioning from a child star to the mature actor he's now attempting to be would have been a more interesting character than the spoiled rich kid he's tasked with. In the end, I have no real rock to stand on in justifying my critiques, but I've written 1,500 words on it so I implore you to read each of them knowing that this is a first impression of a movie based on a TV series that I've never seen and from that point of view found it to be nothing better than average. This may be due to my non-existent history with these characters, but I have a hunch it's probably just because this is nothing more than an average movie.