I was a big fan of Entourage on HBO. I loved the insider aspect of the show. It provided a mostly comedic and sometimes dramatic behind the scenes look at Hollywood. Sure, it was full of misogynistic debauchery and backstabbing, but I suppose that’s a part of the business. Judging by last year’s Sony hacking incident, the show could’ve been a lot worse.
At any rate, I enjoyed watching Vince, Drama, Turtle and E living the life in la-la land. I suppose being a frustrated filmmaker myself, I was able to live vicariously as an insider through this pogram for seven seasons. Thing is, around season six, the show ran out of things to say. There’s only so many bacchanals, dirty deals, and celebrity egos one can depict in a weekly half-hour program before it starts to get repetitive. And that’s the major problem with this film: it covers ground that’s already been covered, even as it starts off with a credit sequence that is cool from a visual standpoint, but uses the same concept from the TV show (credits on the sides of buildings) with the same theme song, Superhero. It plays like an extended version of the show that went off the air four years ago, but has even less to say.
If you were a fan of the show, you’re in luck. While the film’s adherence to the TV show’s aesthetic makes it feel somewhat dated, it’s fun seeing the guys again, like meeting up with old friends that you know you’ve outgrown in a TMZ world, but still want to hang with for old times sake. But when the plotline of the film doesn’t even measure up to the TV show, it’s a problem. At an hour and thirty-three minutes, the film seems much longer, probably because the story just doesn’t cut the mustard. In a nutshell, Vince (Adrian Grenier) is offered a role by new studio head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Vince insists on directing, but quickly goes overbudget on the production. Then follows the exploits of Ari bumping heads with Texas financier Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton in an ephemeral role) and his son Travis, played by Haley Joel Osment.
Once you get past the shock of seeing Osment as a somewhat freakish looking pot-bellied adult made up as a Texas goober, you realize that this guy can act. He’s one of the most interesting things about the film and plays his part as the slimy entitled son of a redneck very well. As for the rest of the cast; there are subplots involving Eric, apparently separated from a pregnant Sloan and sowing his fair share of wild oats; the now wealthy Turtle (having sold his interests in his tequila business in the show’s last season) who pursues Ronda Rousey–I can’t help but wonder if the writers sought out Rousey for this role or was she the only female celebrity the producers could afford who was willing to do it? Unless I’d forgotten Turtle having a thing for female brawlers on the show, this attraction for Rousey comes out of nowhere. Rousey does seem to have taken an acting course or two since Furious 7. Well, maybe only one. And Drama provides the same level of comic relief as on the show, and I mean that as a compliment; I always thought Kevin Dillon was severely underrated as an actor.
Ari Gold is the center of the film, which isn’t a bad thing. Piven was gold as Gold; his quick temper and exasperation were entertaining to watch week to week and never got old. But it’s disappointing that the film is less interesting than what we saw on HBO. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but wonder why they chose to focus on the elements they did. At the beginning of the film, we learn that Vince wants to direct. This is a new motivation for the character; on the show, a major story arc for Vince was completing his passion project, Medellin. Here, we start the film off with the exciting prospect of seeing Vince’s character develop further as a director, but it quickly becomes evident that the filmmakers have no intention of pursuing this arc with any depth. Seeing Vince deal with the pressure of directing and starring in a film would’ve been a fresh approach. We get none of that. What we do get is a plot centering around Gold and Travis, which would’ve merely been the B story for one of the HBO episodes. I recalled excellent story arcs on the show–guest-star Martin Landau as an aging producer trying to make a comeback, Vince running afoul of guest-star Stellan Skarsgard as a difficult director, and arguably the highlight of the show where Vince jumps through hoops to land the lead in Aquaman. This story arc featured a cameo by James Cameron. Any of these plots were far more captivating than what we get here.
Speaking of cameos, whereas Cameron’s appearance was one of many throughout the series’ run that seemed completely organic, the cameos in this film (and there are plenty) come off as forced and contrived. It seems the only directive to everyone appearing in the film was they must utter a word that starts with an F and rhymes with duck. One guess as to which word they all chose. I mean, did Jessica Alba and Kelsey Grammer have some burning need to indiscriminately curse on film for no apparent reason? Actually, the word is peppered throughout the film as expected, as is the act itself. Both are gratuitous. In the same vein, the misogyny is ratcheted up off the charts. At least on the show, there was something of a balance between women who were running things (Babs Miller, Dana Gordon, E’s girlfriend Sloan, Anna Faris, Shauna Roberts) and women who were playthings (every other female character).
If you were a fan of the show, you will most likely enjoy this movie, if nothing else than for the nostalgia of seeing these guys again. If you’re a fan like me, you’ll wonder why they didn’t raise the bar even slightly. The Simpsons Movie managed to do it even while the Simpsons show was still on the air.
As a fan of the TV show, if I were to judge this as an episode, it gets 3 out of 5 reels. On its own merits as a film, it’s only gets 2 reels.
P.S. In one of the more pointless story arcs of the series, Vince falls in love with porn star Sasha Grey, who refuses to give up her career for him. I’m not sure if that makes her a woman in charge or a plaything. You can decide for yourself, just don’t bother watching these episodes on HBO Go. This story arc, as well as Vince’s out-of-nowhere drug abuse subplot are low points of the series.