Movie Review: “Entourage”

Starring
Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Dillon, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Haley Joel Osment, Billy Bob Thorton
Director
Doug Ellin

It’s been four years since “Entourage” ended its incredible run on HBO, and in that time, there’s been a lot of talk about a potential big screen revival from series creator Doug Ellin, producer Mark Wahlberg and the cast. But now that it’s finally a reality, does anyone still care? That seems to be the biggest question surrounding the film, although if the success of “Sex and the City” (which had a similar hiatus between its series finale and the first movie) is any indication, the studio has absolutely nothing to worry about. And why should it? “Entourage” has a built-in fanbase that’s getting bigger every day thanks to the cultural phenomenon of TV binge-watching, and while you don’t necessarily need to be a fan of the series to enjoy the film, it definitely helps.

For those who’ve never watched a single episode of the show, “Entourage” opens with a Piers Morgan-hosted puff piece on movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his friends that serves as a very basic cheat sheet on where the characters are in their lives to get you up to speed. The story itself picks up a few weeks after the series finale, with Vince freshly divorced following his impulsive (nine-day) marriage to Vanity Fair journalist Sophia and ready to get back to work. Recently retired super-agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) has also returned to Hollywood after accepting a position as the new studio head at Warner Brothers, and he wants former client Vince to star in his first movie: a modern day, big-budget adaptation of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The only problem is that Vince will only agree to do it if he can also direct, something he’s never done before.

Fast-forward eight months and the film is almost finished, but Vince needs more money, despite having already gone over budget several times. But before the film’s financier, Texas billionaire Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thorton), will release more funds, he sends his son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) out to L.A. to watch an early cut of the film. Ari isn’t concerned because he knows the movie is great, but when Travis tries to meddle with the production for unknown reasons, Ari is pushed to the breaking point as he tries to protect Vince’s vision and his job. Meanwhile, Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) hit another snag in their on-again-off-again relationship as the latter prepares to give birth to their child, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) tries to woo UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, and Drama (Kevin Dillon) has his livelihood threatened just as he’s about to get his big break.

“Entourage” has always operated as a larger-than-life helping of male wish fulfillment – the ultimate Hollywood fantasy of becoming a famous movie star and bringing along your closest friends for the ride – but while Ellin was no doubt seduced by the lure of going even bigger for the film version, it’s refreshing to see that, for the most part, the movie is basically just more of the same. It’s like a supersized episode of the HBO show, and though that’s not a bad thing, the fact that the series was already beginning to grow stale long before its cancellation could have been a major cause for concern. Thankfully, after wading into darker waters in the final few seasons, “Entourage” is a welcome return to the lighter, more playful tone of the earlier years that made it so popular.

The reason “Entourage” survived for eight seasons was the amazing chemistry between the cast, and it’s great to see the whole gang back together again. Some are given bigger and better storylines than others, but each of the five core members has an important role to play. Piven is still the MVP of the group, mainly because Ari Gold is such an electric character, but Grenier and Connolly provide the heart and soul, while Ferrara and Dillon are the glue that holds it together. Of course, “Entourage” wouldn’t be “Entourage” without the obligatory celebrity cameos, and the movie is jam-packed with them (30 by my count, though many are of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety). Several fan favorite characters also make an appearance – including Rex Lee’s assistant-turned-agent Lloyd, who’s given a minor subplot surrounding his upcoming wedding – but the only substantial new addition to the cast, Osment’s self-entitled rich kid, drags down just about every scene he’s in. It’s a poorly conceived villain that spoils what is an otherwise natural progression of Vince and company’s fairy-tale rise to fame.

Admittedly, the movie doesn’t hit as many high notes as the series delivered at its very best, but fans of the show will like it regardless, and it might even convince some non-fans to go back and watch it from the start. More than anything else, though, “Entourage” is a fitting farewell to a series that never really felt like it got the ending it deserved, and Ellin embraces that second chance with so much fan service that it occasionally gets in the way of the story. But that’s just part of the “Entourage” spirit, because if there’s one thing that the show never strayed from even when tackling more serious material, it’s that feeling of being granted an all-access pass to the Hollywood lifestyle and sharing in the camaraderie of Vince’s tight-knit circle of friends. “Entourage” tries a little too hard to please everyone, resulting in a messy narrative, but it’s also sensationalized, fizzy fun, and as fans of the TV series know only too well, that’s all that counts.

  

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