Celebrity culture is something that society will always obsess over, and no show offered a more glamorized, bro-fueled take on Hollywood than HBO’s Entourage – loosely based on the wild life of producer Mark Wahlberg. Once fans heard Jane’s Addiction kick in while flashy neon lights whizzed by, they knew it was only a matter of time before Vincent Chase and his rag-tag crew started hollering at hotties, pounding expensive alcohol and attacking Hollywood with their special brand of drunken ambition.
Every season of Entourage is about the bond between Vince and his crew, and maybe that’s why Doug Ellin’s Entourage feature film feels lost amidst the glitz and glamour of California’s biggest and brightest stars. The same cliquey culture that HBO satirically mocked once a week ends up commandeering Vince’s latest career crisis, and Ellin finds himself wasting time on vanity cameos and egotistical strokes that are simply nostalgia-porn for die-hard show fans. The boys are back, and as pre-pubescently charming as ever, but so is every other celebrity cameo from the show’s tremendous run – like a packed OC nightclub on free puka shell night.
When we last left the group, Vince (Adrian Grenier) was about to marry Sophia in Paris, Ari (Jeremy Piven) quit his job to save his family, Eric’s (Kevin Connolly) focus was on Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Drama (Kevin Dillon) had the whole Johnny’s Bananas situation going on, and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) struck tequila gold. Times were good and everything seemed to be wrapping up nicely, as a means to an end.
Well, forget all that closure, because Ellin’s film unties all the knots fans had just accepted.
Picking up where things left off, Vince divorces Sophia after only nine days and throws an epic party off the coast of Ibiza. We see Eric, Drama, and Turtle pull up to a massive yacht loaded with booby-baring models and expensive liquor, and the entourage begins talking about Vince’s next role. Ari, who is now back in the game after fielding John Ellis’ cliffhanger offer, wants to give Vince a project called Hyde, to which the newly single actor agrees to – only if he can direct, as well. The announcement drums up some nervousness, as it appears that Ari is just catering to his golden boy, and these fears are only furthered when Vince repeatedly goes over-budget in the name of “art.” This sparks a chain of events that includes a failed screening, a return to old Ari and a visit from the film financier’s son, Travis McCredle (Haley Joel Osment), which is nothing this entourage can’t handle.
Here’s my dilemma: I’m a fan of the show. The camaraderie between brothers (both blood and friend) is something anyone can fantasize about, and their antics always balanced fratty, vulgar humor with actual moments of masculine-yet-sweet man-love. For one night a week, bros could crack a few beers and watch Vince’s crew chase the American dream of fame while (almost) always remaining true to one another – but that feeling is somewhat lost, or at least suffocated, thanks to a rushed film that’s more concerned with pleasing old fans than scripting a new legacy for Vincent Chase.
There’s a pivotal moment in Entourage that sums up how Ellin gets the crew in trouble again, and also how the entire film simply provides distractions around every corner. Vince refuses to screen Hyde, because he only wants the PERFECT cut to be seen, but he makes his decision after “hundreds” of people show up at Turtle’s (gigantic) new house for a private screening. Vince is a man of action, though, so he gets on stage, claims the projector is broken and goes, “Look everyone, there’s Pharrell!” Music starts playing, Pharrell smirks and everyone forgets a screening was even going to take place.
Cameos are hilarious. That’s not the problem with Entourage. When T.I. starts bitching about how many children he’s having while E and Sloan are at the doctor’s office, we laugh. When Gary Busey starts spewing incoherent jargon at numerous sports stars, we laugh harder. When an assuredly drunken Gronk starts screaming at Vince – well, we smirk a bit. But Ellin gets a little cameo happy, and instead of focusing on the transitioning dynamic at play between our main boys, the film turns into a “who’s who” of famous faces, and the satirical nature of Entourage is lost in its own obsession with heightened statuses. When Entourage was but a humble show, most stories revolved around no one wanting a piece of Vinny Chase, but now that popularity has set in, EVERYONE wants a cut, and the underdog charm is lost in a flood of paparazzi bulb flashes.
Ellin doesn’t only struggle with television references and celebrity appearances, since there’s also an obvious struggle in mapping out a full story for every Entourage character given the film’s constraining run time. Vinny’s directorial process is but a mystery, because we never actually see him at work on Hyde (an apocalyptic DJ movie featuring Calvin Harris?) – the whole eight months of production are fast-forwarded to the money issue. E’s problems with Sloan are dragged along yet again, as he fights with the notion that he’s just another Hollywood womanizer. Drama (still) just wants his career to take off, since Johnny’s Bananas no longer runs, and he sees Hyde as his resurgence – but his only usage seems to be for crass laughs. And then there’s Turtle, who has a crush on Ronda Rousey. His attempts to woo her are hilarious, but still no one knows how much friggin’ money his tequila deal made him (a recurring joke). While everything here is serviceable, nothing seems necessary. It’s as if Ellin cut all the ties on his old crew for one last hoorah, only to re-tie them in a similar, yet sloppier manner.
But some things needn’t change for success, like the glory of Ari Gold. The way Piven is able to rattle off these insulting monologues of the most offensive nature is always a thing of wonder, coming up with such glorious zingers as “dwarf cunt” without even batting an eyelash. He’s mean, abrasive, and absolutely entrancing, but Piven’s unflinching delivery is a thing of ballsy wonder. Ari Gold is a fucking legend, and while Entourage‘s final bow doesn’t exactly bring about a tear of sadness, losing such a prolific character does rest heavy on my heart. No one possesses an equal “powder-keg” intensity that’s supposedly based on an overblown stereotype of high-strung Hollywood big-wigs (agents/studio heads/etc.), and Piven’s explosive hilarity will NEVER be matched. Can someone please hug it out with me?
My problems with the Entourage films aren’t of the bro culture brought upon by the rampant usage of naked chicks, Drama’s continued sexual harassment, objectification and party-boy antics. If you hated the show for those reasons, rest easy knowing it only gets worse on the big screen. Instead, my problems are with structure, significance, and yet another franchise that strives for relevancy by exploiting only what its former fame was built on, with absolutely nothing else to offer. Franchise fans shouldn’t have a problem joining Chase and company for one last dig at Hollywood, and Ari Gold gets his chance to go out as a king should, but this fun-filled extension of the Entourage name has fully morphed into the droll Hollywood vessel that Ellin’s show once cheekily mocked.
While it's not without laughs, Entourage has turned into the same vapid Hollywood beast that the show once satirically mocked.