Four years after Entourage wrapped its eight-season run on HBO, the boys and their testosterone-fueled fairy tale are back with a big-screen escapade. The good news/bad news for fans who’ve been jonesing for more of Vincent Chase and Co. is that they’ll find this winking depiction of the Hollywood fast lane the same as it ever was. From its look to its episodic rhythm, the movie plays like a compressed season nine — a season that has its moments but wouldn’t rank among the show’s finest.
Reuniting with his offscreen creative collaborators, as well as the onscreen ensemble, series creator Doug Ellin has placed ever-more-aspirational brass rings before his characters. But his focus remains on the bond of undying loyalty shared by four guys from Queens who are living the dream; the fulminations of superagent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) are still the main attraction, and self-mocking drop-bys from the rich and famous remain integral to the atmosphere of crude glamour.
Living larger but maintaining the small-screen feel.
Given that the series had traded its satiric freshness for sappy wish-fulfillment fantasy by the time it ended, the must-see factor won’t be red-hot except among the ultradevoted. But the movie’s midweek bow will give it a boost against wider-appeal comic book fare.
Picking up the pieces only days after the show left off, Ellin (working from a story he wrote with Rob Weiss) has made sure that the uninitiated won’t be left in the dust. He uses a TV feature by Piers Morgan as a concise and efficient way to provide backstory exposition, (re)introducing the main players: movie star Vince (Adrian Grenier); his lifelong friend and manager, Eric “E.” Murphy (Kevin Connolly); his B-list-actor older half brother, Johnny “Drama” (Kevin Dillon); driver turned entrepreneur Turtle (Jerry Ferrara); and the motormouthed Ari.
After ill-conceived detours to Europe, Ari, Vince and E. are back in business, with Vince not just starring in Ari’s first project as a studio honcho but insisting on taking the reins as director. The stakes are higher, as the dialogue keeps reminding us. But nothing really feels at stake in this golden world, even when the over-budget production meets the culture-clash stumbling block of its chief financier, played by Billy Bob Thornton with simmering Texas-oil-money menace, and his boneheaded son (an excellent Haley Joel Osment, all good-ole-boy bluster).
Ellin is more concerned with the mechanics of Hollywood dealmaking — the friendships, smoke-blowing and backstabbing — than with Vince’s artistic motivation, evolution or working methods. He doesn’t use his big-screen canvas to explore a big-screen set. All we know about Vince’s $100 million-and-counting venture, Hyde (glimpsed briefly, with DP Steven Fierberg switching up the visual vocabulary significantly), is that it’s futuristic and large-scale — and that Vince’s hoodie-wearing deejay might have superpowers.
Whether artistic or emotional, evolution isn’t much of a player in this boys-will-be-boys universe of arrested development. The film’s opening scene is especially disheartening on that front, with its yacht full of bikini-clad women off the coast of Ibiza — could there be a more lazy and uncreative shorthand for “hotshot lifestyle”? — and its icky first line of dialogue, spoken by Drama, the most developmentally arrested of the posse.
But Drama’s storyline — even with its high ick factor — turns out to be the most interesting of the film’s plot strands as he recognizes his “delusional confidence” and accepts his place in Vince’s constellation. A perennial almost-ran to his superstar brother, Drama has a small supporting role in Hyde that, in an affectionate swipe at Hollywood-ese, everyone describes as “pivotal.”
For his part, E. is juggling producing the film and attending Lamaze classes with his pregnant ex, Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui). It’s doubtful that even die-hard fans care whether they get back together for the umpteenth time. Also less than compelling are Vince and Turtle’s new romantic interests, Emily Ratajkowski and Ronda Rousey, respectively — the subplots’ chief appeal being the opportunity to blur the lines with celebs playing themselves.
The movie’s cameo cast of thousands (dozens, actually) includes athletes, musicians, actors and Warren Buffett — most of whom have little or nothing to say and clearly just wanted to get in on the party, which speaks to the show’s popularity among A-listers. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm before it, Entourage proved that stars are game when it comes to playing asshole versions of themselves. But only a few of the movie’s cameos — those of Liam Neeson, producer Mark Wahlberg and an especially sharp Armie Hammer — have the kind of bite that gave early seasons of the show its delirious brashness.
The indispensable Rex Lee returns as Ari’s former assistant, Lloyd, their strong chemistry somewhat undercut because it’s limited mainly to phone calls and video chats as Lloyd plans his wedding (Greg Louganis plays his husband-to-be). Other returning series regulars — Perrey Reeves, Debi Mazar, Rhys Coiro, Constance Zimmer and Alan Dale — deliver brief turns that even the most practiced of smoke-blowers couldn’t call pivotal.
Amid the not-so-troubling setbacks, unbelievable triumphs and perpetual spring break, the movie takes one or two nice twists. One of its strongest scenes provides a bracing dose of female perspective. It finds E. double-teamed by a couple of recent hookups on the patio of Little Next Door — among the trendy locations where Ellin and production designer Chase Harlan place the action when the characters are out and about, rather than luxuriating at home in prime SoCal real estate.
The houses and paychecks may have grown bigger for this entourage, but the movie’s design, camerawork and editing, as well as its hit-and-miss narrative, are scaled to the small screen. As with the tried-and-true friendships that drive the story, Ellin is sticking with what he knows.
Production companies: Home Box Office, RatPac Entertainment, Closest to the Hole, Leverage Entertainment
Cast: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven, Jerry Ferrara, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Perrey Reeves, Rex Lee, Debi Mazar, Rhys Coiro, Constance Zimmer, Haley Joel Osment, Ronda Rousey, Billy Bob Thornton, Emily Ratajkowski, Alan Dale, Scott Mescudi
Director: Doug Ellin
Writers: Doug Ellin, Rob Weiss, based on characters created by Doug Ellin
Producers: Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Rob Weiss
Executive producer: Wayne Carmona
Director of photography: Steven Fierberg
Production designer: Chase Harlan
Costume designer: Olivia Miles
Editor: Jeff Groth
Casting directors: Sheila Jaffe, Susan Paley Abramson
Rated R, 104 minutes