I prefer ‘Johnny Drama’s finest hour’
Well, this is a weird one. Spin-off continuation films of TV shows are usually put together when fans are dying to see more adventures of the characters and cast involved after it’s closing finale. Whilst you could say the same for HBO’s ‘lifestyles of a Hollywood A-lister (and his bunch of close friends)’ dramedy Entourage, it hardly was a hot show when it finished it’s 8th season in 2011, having run it’s course a good couple of seasons before and suffering from audience apathy & falling ratings. So here we are then in 2015, with a big screen outing of it to a less than tepid reaction to say the least. Still, whilst it’s inaccessible for new eyeballs and suffers from screwy character development, Entourage can at least say it satisfies fans of the show on every level possible.
After realising there’s a creative gap in his life that needs filling, recently divorced movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier, Goodbye World) accepts the offer from his friend and former agent, movie studio head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven, Mr. Selfridge), to star in a modern day adaptation of Jekyll & Hyde – on the condition that he can direct it also. 8 months later and Ari still hasn’t seen a final cut yet whilst Vince needs a few more quid to finish the movie. Ari has to go to studio financier Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton, The Judge) for the money, who allows his son Travis (a grown up Haley Joel Osment, Tusk) to go watch the incomplete & over-budget footage, but he falls out with Vincent’s half brother & star performer, D-lister Johnny ‘Drama’ Chase (Kevin Dillon, How To Be A Gentleman), throwing the movie and everyone’s careers into doubt. In the background, Vince’s manager/producer Eric ‘E’ Murphy (Kevin Connolly, Reach Me) is having girl trouble again whilst his ex is about to give birth with his child and Vince’s former driver turned tequila millionaire Turtle (actor turned podcaster Jerry Ferrara, 7500) is trying to date MMA fighter Ronda Rousey.
Let’s not beat around the bush – this is nigh on impenetrable for those coming into Entourage without having a fairly good working knowledge of the TV show. With a frankly insane pace which does not allow room to breath on developments and key moments, show creator turned movie director Doug Ellin manages to condense a whole season’s worth of storylines into a two hour slot… terribly. Hell, the opening few minutes long, pre-intro sequence segment on the yacht seems like it would be it’s own episode alone and it’s meant to set up the film for everyone. Worst of all, whilst the script tries to cater for newcomers at first, he ditches that method about a quarter of a way through. Having problems with Vince’s movie, Ari runs a-foul of his boss who I know who it is, what his relationship is with Ari and their backstory together from watching the show. Here, he just says to his assistant “Ah, where’s John Ellis?!” with absolutely none of what I speak of. Hardly engaging for new people to be honest and I completely understand their justified complaints. The later parts are even faster with so much being thrown at you at once with everyone’s plot threads spinning together you’ll be forgiven if you have a fatal brain aneurysm in the middle of the cinema.
But what about those who have seen the show and liked it? Well, barring some dodgy character moments, it’s pretty ace. I find myself entertained post-film after some trepidation from social media in the build up. It caters to what I wanted it to do (just be better than the dull Season 8) and it achieved that. For a film built around appealing to fans of the show, this does tonnes right. Long time original characters not including the four main boys get way better endings than their small screen appearances, particularly Ari’s gay former assistant Lloyd. And considering half the fun of Entourage is the anticipation of whoever’s next to come through the mahoosive revolving door of celebrity to interact with our heroes, this is the equivalent of a week away at Disneyland Florida. It ranges from extended fictionalised portrayals of themselves like Vince’s squeeze for the moment (model Emily Ratajkowski, Gone Girl) to actors playing larger than life characters (Osment is superb as the hick billionaire son who think he’s better than everyone in Hollywood because he did a few months in film school) to “blink and you’ll miss them” cameos of super real life A-listers. It would be silly of me to ruin any of them but even long time show regular characters like Gary Busey & Andrew Dice Clay come perilously close to stealing the film alone so forgive my temptation since they’ve been involved with the show for a good long while. Heck, even Mark Wahlberg (whose life Entourage is based on) doesn’t disappoint. There’s treats galore with callbacks to iconic moments and show characters popping their head through the door all the time with due care taken for long time fans. Hell, we finally get to see Vince’s fabled Mentos commercial which convinced Ari to take him under his wing in the first place. In short, no matter your level of Entourage fandom, you’ll be in Drama heaven with everything offered to you in the ultimate example of fan service I’ve ever seen.
What you would want to see from our four heroes after they have dicked about, made numerous movies and fucked most of the girls all around Hollywood with a bit of time away is some change, which we do get but it’s rather mixed. Turtle (well Ferrera) has slimmed down and seems to have grown up big time after his big money payday with less of the fat ass stoner layabout & more gentleman chivalry, as he honestly only wants to take Rousey out for dinner (in some of her better acting work). That’s good. Great even. Terrific character development from where we saw Turtle not too long ago. Shame can’t be said for E. E is quite possibly the worst written character in television history in some time. It was cute at first seeing Vince’s mate managing to pull girls way above his standing/league but his ridiculously on-/off- relationship with the mother of his child Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui, The Mentalist) is forcibly made on-/off- again for this movie just to give him something to do. He’s given a plot where he’s forced to face up to his womanising ways with a carefree attitude – and it goes nowhere. Sure he’s having a baby in the background but after all the crowbar-ing to give him a relevant plot before that comes about, it makes you wonder what the point is. The most anyone gets out of this though is Drama. Whilst Vince is kept to the side for most part getting the film made (I actually wouldn’t mind seeing more of an actor turned director angle but it’s mostly glossed over), which keeps up the long running gag up of how despite the fact the show is about an A-list celeb it’s barely about him, the other long running gag is how Johnny Drama, a longtime joke in the acting industry despite being reasonably talented, finally gets his day in the sun, after a massive low. Easily my favourite part of the film is whenever Dillon comes on and plays this “loser” who hangs onto his more successful younger brother’s coattails when we all privately know he does have it in him to make it on his own. His final act is one of storyline pay-offs at their finest. Superb.
There is one doubt or two I’ve had since Entourage has finished and I’ve watched the movie – I wouldn’t call it ‘getting taste’ but the show/movie’s attitude towards women and female characters is not the best. Mainly treated for eye candy and disregarded as sex toys, the OTT good looking ladies that inhabit Earth-Entourage do not get a fair share of the stick at all with portrayal of clueless bimbos keen for a hot celeb inside them with nary a thought on anything else. It’s not just the random shag the boys get through either with Mrs. Ari even showing signs of relenting after being the one in charge in relationship overall and studio big wig Dana Gordon barely getting a word in for this big screen outing. Now I would stick up before and counterpoint this male driven idealist lifestyle fantasy with fellow HBO stablemate Sex & The City, but whilst at least there you had issues challenged and stereotypes broken down before being reconstructed. Here in 2015 it’s more of the same and it’s not good enough to me anymore. Also, I’m really unsure about Ari Gold. Yes Jeremy Piven is stellar as this megalomaniac, ego-driven, curses worse than a sailor super agent now studio head but as times have moved on and become a tad more PC, Ari sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure, the moments of Gold where he finally goes on one of his legendary rants made me want to lose it in the cinema with him with his infectious rage but it’s his character-based attitudes towards homosexuals & women which dilutes a good guy winner at heart wrapped up in his power hungry methods and madness. Shame really.
To knock a TV show film for being ‘more of the same’ as it’s small screen beginnings is churlish since it’s catering for a ready made audience anyway but I do admit Entourage could have done much much more to make it accessible. It’s impossible to watch this film and appreciate everything show creator Ellin sets out to do, as two hours is not the same as an eight episode season. There’s some murky character in-development and after some time away, I feel awkward towards the show’s treatment of women but the highpoints of the show’s bro-verly love and local lads in Hollywood humour is still in here with fan pleasing moments. My score reflects my enjoyment of a fan service movie aimed at me more than anything. Anyone else, I would recommend avoiding like the plague, even though HBO would prefer you didn’t.
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