If there’s one thing to ask about the film industry, as presented in the big screen adaptation of HBO’s Entourage, it’s this: how does anything in Hollywood ever get made?
Entourage may be a comedy and it may be asking a lot of its audience to actually like a small group of ordinary, east coast buddies who enjoy the Hollywood lifestyle, but there are certainly kernels of truth in there, and one of them is showing the impossibility of getting a project off the ground. Behind the scenes, after a couple of years of hiccups and negotiation snafus, even this film with its built-in name recognition and its HBO following had its issues. When asked about the likelihood of a widescreen Entourage ever being made, director and writer Doug Ellin was quoted as saying that it was “less and less likely every day.” And yet somehow it eventually fell into place. After eight seasons on pay TV, Entourage is finally on the big screen where you can now pay more for pretty much the same thing. At a running time of 105 minutes, watching the film is like binge-watching the highlights of series nine.
Season eight wrapped everything up, but the movie immediately unravels whatever loose ends were tied. It’s now six months later. Movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his entourage of buddies from the ol’ neighborhood, Eric (Kevin Connolly), Johnny (Kevin Dillon) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) are ready to get back into the Hollywood game. One time talent agent now studio boss, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) has a project for Vincent and he makes the offer. Vincent is interested, but there’s something else. “Whatever I do next, I want to direct,” the actor tells Ari. Gulp.
For non-HBO subscribers or anyone else concerned that they won’t know what’s going on and who characters are in relation to each other, hold on; the film does a good job of setting the scene by having TV’s Piers Morgan do an introductory piece on the gang. Particularly funny is an accurate looking spoof on those cheesy Mentos commercials, the place where agent Ari first discovered young Vincent. The freeze frame is hilarious; it looks like the real thing.
The cast from the TV series are all reassembled, including a host of walk-on celebrity cameos having fun with their big-screen images, including Jessica Alba, Gary Busey, Kelsey Grammer, Ronda Rousey, Liam Neeson and George Takei among many, many others. Even producer Mark Walhlberg and his real-life entourage – they’re the gang that inspired the TV series – make a quick appearance. Their moment is funny if you know the show’s origin; if not, the scene is cute but has no grounding; you won’t get the joke.
Despite character conflicts with wives and girlfriends and the sun-drenched lifestyle that comes with power and wealth in the movie industry, the film’s major conflict surrounds the stumbling block of trying to get more money for Vincent’s directorial debut. The film is finished but needs a few extra million to polish the effects. That’s where Texan millionaire Billy Bob Thornton, who bank rolled the project, and his industry clueless son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) come in. Travis watches the film and wants major cuts and changes before he can advise his dad to part with more money, yet his taste plus his motives and knowledge of the industry are questionable. When he references Johnny Depp’s Disney franchise, he refers to it as being Empire to the Caribbean. When Vincent talks of Travis, he calls him the punk-bitch Forest Gump.
The initial idea behind Entourage was always good, especially when it came in short TV episodes. It was a culture-clash/fish-out-of-water story where here a group of street wise bros from New York share their best friend’s success by sticking with him in shiny Hollywood. Wherever movie star Vincent went, his drinking buddies went with him. That’s funny. But by now, those buddies have so fully embraced the west coast, star-studded lifestyle, there’s no longer much of a clash with the culture to explore. They fit in.
And more importantly, are audiences really interested in the Hollywood industry as much as it thinks? The behind-the-scenes shenanigans are funny for those who get the joke beyond the TMZ celebrity ambushes, but for those with only a passing interest in the mechanics of getting a film made, Entourage with its mild though profane humor, insider references and self-deprecating cameos, leaves little to no impact. Considering that HBO already has the ability to go further than regular TV, was a big screen Entourage over an HBO special even necessary?
MPAA Rating: R Length: 105 Minutes Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10)