A lumpen big screen update of a once stylish TV series
For 96 episodes between 2004 and 2011, Entourage both sent up and celebrated modern-day Hollywood. The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning show followed the adventures of fictional movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), his posse of hangers-on and his abrasive agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). It made director Doug Ellin and his cast famous and often felt insightful, partly because one of its executive producers, Mark Wahlberg, was a real-life movie star. But quality control dipped steadily in later seasons, and its hard not to approach this big-screen spin-off without thinking ‘why bother?’
Ellin has described it as “Entourage on steroids”, and superficially, that’s an accurate assessment of a bombastically glamorous film packed with tanned hotties, LA mansions and luxury cars. In the opening scene, Vincent Chase and his old buddies Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Drama (Kevin Dillon) party hard on a yacht with bikini-clad beauties including Emily Ratajkowski, the model/actress from Robin Thicke’s controversial ‘Blurred Lines’ video. The TV series was known for its ability to attract A-list guest stars and the film maintains this gold standard, with Pharrell Williams, Calvin Harris, Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba and Piers Morgan all appearing briefly and knowingly as themselves. Morgan’s extended cameo is especially memorable, as he gamely mocks his reputation for being a bit of a weasel.
Sadly, though, Ellin fails to amp up the shows comedy or drama. The thin plot follows Chase as he persuades Gold to give him $100 million to film a dystopian update of The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde. Though this film-within-a-film looks pretty incoherent when we’re shown its opening scene, Gold declares it a masterpiece, so we’re presumably meant to feel devastated when a super-rich Texan investor (Billy Bob Thornton) threatens to withhold the funds necessary to get it finished. It’s supposed to be Chase’s labour of love, but we never actually see him working on it, or even getting especially upset when its future is jeopardised, so Ellin’s film fails to sustain any real dramatic tension for much of its 104-minute running time.
This wouldn’t matter so much if the script contained a few more laughs. Piven’s egotistical movie mogul remains Entourage‘s most compelling character, but he’s hamstrung by sub-Gordon Gekko lines like “I don’t worry, I just win” and a slightly uncomfortable sub-plot in which camp assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee) keeps asking Gold to give him away at his wedding, only to be greeted with witless anti-gay gags. Though Ellin at least keeps the friendships at the heart of Entourage intact, his film comes off only as a lumpen update of a stylish TV series.