When showrunner Doug Ellin’s HBO comedy-drama series, following the ever glamourous travails of an up and coming actor, his loyal hangers-on and shouty agent, first aired in the early 00’s, it was appropriately hailed by one trade publication as ‘almost preposterously enjoyable’, neatly summating the series’ inherent appeal. Despite its consistently low stakes, thinly-sketched characters, and an ever-increasing reliance on celebrity cameos, Entourage was, in its early seasons, one of the most easily bingeable shows on television. So little of consequence could happen in a given 30-minute episode that another would simply have to be consumed immediately. No matter how many absurdly dull Turtle subplots they could throw at us, or how uniformly horrific Vince’s supposed box-office smashes looked from the snippets shown, the cult surrounding the show grew as its run continued, bolstered largely by Jeremy Piven’s career making turn as the perpetually pent-up agent, Ari Gold.”
Yet as fun as it was to hang out with Vince (Adrian Grenier), E (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Drama (Kevin Dillon), with the occasional Ari injection, the show’s flaws became ever more apparent as the seasons wore on, finally jumping the shark in its seventh when Vince got knocked on the head and developed a sudden insatiable thirst for cocaine and porn-star girlfriends. A dearth of fresh ideas, paired with Ellin’s inability to ever find a comfortable balance between the show’s easy going tone with real dramatic stakes, led to an uneven final bow, season 8’s soapy ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ conclusion leaving a sour taste. Besides its unquestionable decline in quality, Entourage has been rearticulated since its initial run as a by-word for rich, white guy privilege, a relic of a bygone era in pop culture where misogyny and gender imbalance were years away from becoming a moot point in the industry that the show celebrated as much as it satirized.
Thus, we arrive at the inevitable, yet oh-so-poorly timed Entourage movie. Essentially four relatively watchable episodes of the series bunched together, Ellin’s film provides exactly what fans expect, yet as an exercise in nostalgia, does little to assail the accusations made against the show since it aired. The typically unchallenging, lightly disengaged narrative hits reset on the series finale, seeing the newly-divorced (after 9 days!) Vince take his first step into the director’s chair, helming an EDM industry-based reimagining of Jekyll & Hyde. It looks like a complete catastrophe, but Ari claims it’s a masterpiece with Oscar potential, so I guess we’re wrong. When they go massively over budget, their Texas-based financier’s son Travis (Haley Joel Osmont, one of the few poor souls reduced to playing a character not based on themselves) is flown in to assess the state of the movie so far. His crush on Vince’s latest catch, Ms. Blurred Lines Emily Ratajkowski, leads him to withdraw funding unless Vince agrees to cut Drama’s bit part. Meanwhile, E accidentally takes Viagra at a pool party, Turtle courts Ronda Rousey, Drama unwittingly finds himself embroiled in a sex-tape scandal, and Ari breaks things. Non-fans are accounted for with an introduction to the bro collective in the form of a Piers Morgan special, but they’ll be frequently perplexed by the film’s inherent lack of narrative urgency. Positioned as the film’s dramatic centre, Vince is as unconvincing a director as he is a superstar actor, and despite his supposed labour of love hanging in the balance, any dramatic potential is squandered in a film equally concerned with the rest of the gang’s inconsequential subplots, sidelining him offscreen for more than 15 minutes in the second act, and having him do very little to move the plot along when spotlighted.
With its chilled-out pacing and scarce character development, an Entourage movie was always going to be a difficult proposition, and your ability to forgive its endless but entirely-anticipated flaws will depend upon prior enjoyment of the show. In this sense, Entourage ultimately achieves exactly what it sets out to do. It provides efficient fan-service that, while never recapturing the freshness of those early seasons, is never any less than watchable. Kevin Dillon, master of the unintentional zinger, is as hapless and hilarious as ever as Drama, even when faced with a largely unfunny, extremely believable sex tape subplot. As with the series, it’s those infrequent Piven injections that keep the entourage afloat, and as exhaustive as the show was in its depictions of Ari’s fluctuation between elated highs and office-trashing lows, it’s testament to the character’s longevity that he’s still such a hoot. Cameo highlights include Kelsey Grammer marching defiantly out of a therapy session, a stalkery Armie Hammer, and George Takei almost taking the homophobic sting off Ari’s long suffering assistant Lloyd’s gay marriage subplot.
As an unapologetic, extended exercise in fan service, Entourage provides more of the breezy fun that made the series so popular, without ever taking the necessary step outside its comfort zone to provide a complete cinematic experience.