It’s fitting that “Entourage”(the film) hasn’t abandoned the theme song that accompanied eight seasons of “Entourage”(the television series), the “oh, yeah” infused jams of Jane’s Addiction’s “Superhero,” which has become synonymous with the show itself. Fitting because “Entourage”(the film) and “Entourage”(the television series, and yes, we’ll do away with the purposely clunky differentiation right now) are so similar as to be nearly the same entity, with Doug Ellin’s feature film aping the style, tone, look, feel, and message of his television series so completely that it’s nearly impossible to recommend the film to viewers unfamiliar with the show. Fans of the series will find much to enjoy about Ellin’s big screen outing, a super-sized version of the HBO show that exists seemingly to pave the way for movie star Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) and “his boys” to make the leap to feature films for good, but neophytes will likely walk away baffled.
Any question that “Entourage”isn’t up to its old tricks is wiped away by the film’s first line: “I may have to jerk it before we even get there,” spoken with something approaching awe by Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon). The “there” in question is a yacht teaming with Ibiza party babes, a lax dress code, and also Vince himself, fresh off a failed marriage that rivals Britney Spears for Hollywood’s shortest union. The film picks up almost immediately after the show’s finale—a four-year gap in real time—though it effectively dismantles pretty much every big plot movement and character evolution that wrapped up the show’s run. Vince getting married, Ari quitting the biz, Sloan and Eric getting back together, all are swiftly dispatched within the film’s opening minutes, all those tied up ends loosened before the credits finish rolling.
The boys are back, for better or for worse.
Vince’s jettisoned marriage doesn’t weigh too heavily on his mind, and he’s soon preoccupied with a new endeavor: directing his first film. Ever content to skate over the big, important stuff, “Entourage”then fast-forwards eight months (if nothing else, this is a film that moves), long after Vince has wrapped filming on “Hyde,” some sort of gritty and dark reimagining of the classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”story, one that also involves a drug that is dispersed through the air and Vince performing as a rogue, personality-shifting DJ. (Even Robert Louis Stevenson couldn’t come up with this kind of stuff, and that guy cooked up Treasure Island.) Vince is gambling big on “Hyde,” but so is his former-agent-turned-studio-head, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven, who really should just have his own Gold-centric spin-off at this point), who seems to be suffering under the delusion that leading a studio is less stressful than being an agent.
“Hyde”has gone over budget (again), and when Vince and manager/producer Eric (Kevin Connolly) ask Ari to pony up more cash, everyone goes a little bit nuts (“Does Ari Gold punch a picture of a kitten in this film?,” you may wonder, and you will be very rewarded). Even Ari can’t crack this thing, and Hollywood’s biggest power broker is forced to go to Texas to haggle with the film’s financier, a Texas bigwig played by Billy Bob Thornton. If this sounds convoluted, it certainly is, and this is only the film’s main plotline, the rest of the feature is riddled with meandering subplots that seek to give all the boys their own stake in matters, while only making the entire thing feel more confusing, episodic and oddly hollow. (Eric’s storyline even includes a long sequence that relies on the machinations of two girls who used to be roommates, that’s how complicated and oddly twisted the whole thing is.)
“To me, this is just another check,” Thornton’s Larsen McCredle guffaws at the cash-strapped Ari (oh, Billy Bob, we know), forcing the desperate executive to tote Larsen’s son, Travis (Haley Joel Osment), back to Hollywood so that he can examine Vince’s film to see if it really is worthy of a fresh cash infusion. This is all action that plays out within the film’s first act, which is so top-loaded with information that it’s amazing the whole thing doesn’t crumble under its own weight, like so much bad plastic surgery. Osment gamely sports a Texas accent, but despite his best efforts, it’s atrocious, and his entire performance feels like something ripped out of a particularly bad “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”knockoff (it’s that twangy, and it’s that weirdly unsettling).
As the group struggles to get “Hyde”completed, Travis comes up with his own plan (is it stupid? is it nonsensical? does it hinge on a woman who seems completely unaware of her part in all of it? you already know the answer), which threatens to crush Vince’s always tenuous fame once and for all. Elsewhere, there’s a one-person sex tape, Ronda Rousey threatens to kick Turtle’s (Jerry Ferrara) ass, Ari yells a string of insensitive slurs at his still loyal ex-assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee), and Emmanuelle Chriqui’s Sloan prepares to birth a baby into this mess. The cars are nice, though, and most of the party scenes feature elaborate spreads that look genuinely tasty.
Overloaded with cameos—T.I., Armie Hammer, Jon Favreau, Mark Cuban, Liam Neeson, Gary Busey, Bob Saget, Andrew Dice Clay, Pharrell Williams, Nora Dunn, Kelsey Grammer and of course executive producer and Mark Wahlberg and many more—“Entourage” makes a point of stopping its already overstuffed narrative for myriad tangents about each celeb who shows his or her face as a reminder to the audience (as if they didn’t already know), that the Entourage gang hangs out with only the finest B and C-list celebrities.
Strangely devoid of a third act, the film’s initially swift and mostly entertaining action goes into overdrive in its last fifteen minutes, suddenly eager to sew up major plot points that have otherwise lingered for over an hour. The whole thing is overstuffed with enough narrative threads that it should require a feature film-sized outing to answer them all, but “Entourage”merrily skips over whole chunks of vital narrative in order to give it a glossy Hollywood ending, the kind that would seem forced, well, even in the movies. [C+]