EntourageReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 06/02/15 09:13:12
If you were one of those guys who protested the recent release of the glorious "Mad Max: Fury Road" because it dared to show its female characters as being just as strong, smart and resourceful as its titular hero--arguably even more so in the case of Charlize Theron--instead of relegating them to the brainless bimbo slots that they are usually relegated to in the typical box-office behemoths, "Entourage" is the movie of your dreams. For everyone else, this big screen version of the inexplicably popular HBO series will prove to be a virtually unwatchable sleazefest with maybe two actual laughs, zero insights on note about contemporary show business and attitudes towards anyone who isn't a white alpha male-type that are as retrograde as the punchlines and bear in mind, this is a film that is still cracking jokes about Tonya Harding and "The Crying Game." It is a good thing that this film is not being presented in 3-D and Smell-O-Vision because if it was, my guess is that most of the running time would consist of the main characters reaching out from the screen in an attempt to roofie members of the audience not already overwhelmed by the stench of Aqua Velva, Astroglide and flopsweat.Although newcomers will be able to pick up the story quickly enough to hate it with the same intensity as someone who has inexplicably slogged through the entire sorry enterprise, a brief recap is presumably in order. Loosely inspired by the real-life escapades of Mark Wahlberg when he shot to stardom in the 90's, the film followed the up-and-down career of hunky movie star Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) and the posse of childhood cohorts--burgeoning business manager E (Kevin Connolly), big brother and still-struggling actor Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) and tubby driver Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) that he brought with him to Los Angeles to help him celebrate his new fortune while keeping things real. With the aid of hyper-choleric super-agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), Vincent and the gang found themselves riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels that not even the occasional career misstep could stop. When the show finally ended, Vincent was jetting off to get married, E was engaged to his long-suffering girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chiquri), Ari had just been made the head of a movie studio, Turtle was rich after investing in a tequila company and Drama pretty much continued to stay the course.
As the film opens, the gang catches up with Vincent on the party yacht that he is using to get over the dissolution of his eight-day marriage (which shouldn't be too difficult since she evidently doesn't want any money or anything since he is such an awesome dude) and put him in contact with Ari, who wants him to star in his first big production as studio head, a futuristic take on "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde," so badly that he even acquiesces when Vincent impulsively announces that he wants to direct as well. Eight months later, the film has run wildly over-budget and Vincent needs more money to finish it but is reluctant to show it to anyone, even Ari. This requires Ari to go to Texas to meet with the billionaire (Billy Bob Thornton) financing most of his slate of films, who promptly announces that he will not part with another cent unless his movie-buff son (Haley Joel Osment) can look at the movie and report back to him. The good news is that when Ari finally sees "Hyde," he is convinced that it is a masterpiece. The bad news is that the kid is not nearly as enamored with it and his suggested improvements start with cutting out Drama's allegedly award-worthy supporting turn and end with getting rid of Vincent and replacing him with CGI.
While Ari frantically tries to work around the kid, protect Vincent's vision and prevent himself from succumbing to the rage issues that nearly wrecked his marriage, the other guys have their own equally compelling storylines as well. Although E's engagement to the now-heavily pregnant Sloan is off since she got miffed and left after he apparently slept with her stepmother, he is still helping with her Lamaze classes and is clearly still pining for her. This, needless to say, does not prevent him from sleeping with two other women in the same day, a move that comes perilously close to causing him some degree of crisis. (This, by the way, is the character who is supposed to be the most innately decent and level-headed of the group.) While Drama despairs that his last shot at stardom may wind up on the cutting room floor, he is hit with an additional humiliation when a sex tape goes viral--as it turns out, his partner is actually someone he loves. As for Turtle, he accosts celebrated MMA fighter Ronda Rousey in the middle of traffic in the hopes of somehow scoring a date with her (because that is what dudes do) but when she unexpectedly (and inexplicably) shows some interest, he blows it and then tries to win her over again. (At this point, I would like to offer my humble apologies for leading you astray but in my defense, I thought these were meant to be equally compelling storylines. . . )
At this point, I should probably admit that I may have watched exactly one complete episode of "Entourage" in my life--due almost entirely to my inordinate fondness for guest star Jessica Alba--and what I saw then did not exactly impress me that much. It struck me as facile bullshit that appeared to know about as much about Hollywood as it did about women and the defense that it served as a male equivalent to the equally odious "Sex and the City" rang especially hollow--the entertainment complex hardly needed yet another media depiction of self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing assholes to balance the psychic scales in the wake of the devils wearing Prada. That said, I don't recall any great wailing and weeping when the show went off the air--even some of its fans conceded that it slipped in quality in its last couple of seasons--nor do I remember any overwhelming groundswell for a film version from anyone other than the former stars, none of whom had post-show dance cards that were especially full.
That said, once a feature film was announced, one might have thought that screenwriters Doug Ellin (who also directed) and Rob Weiss (the "Amongst Friends" prodigy-turner-prodigal whose own existence might have inspired a funny movie in its own right, if "Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes" is any indication) would have tried to figure out a way to construct a storyline that would have appealed to the die-hard fan base as well as to the millions of potential viewers who never saw the show during its cable run. In other words, do the very opposite of what happened when "Sex and the City" made its way to the big screen in a manner so agonizing that even the fan base was somewhat turned off by it. Based on the available evidence, they chose to follow the SATC playbook to a T (aside from keeping the running time well under two hours and not the 145 minute bloat of the first SATC movie) by coming up with a story that plays like a proposed story arc that was abandoned early on because no one could crack the problem of how to flesh it out to cover an entire season and the filmmakers seem less interested in trying to create a halfway engaging story than in trying to engage all bikini-worthy members of the Extras Guild into appearing in the background of nearly every scene for the guys to drool over.
The hell of it is that with a few tweaks, the main storyline could have actually worked. Imagine what might have happened if Ari had taken a look at VIncent's movie, realized that the kid from Texas was right (this wouldn't have been too much of a stretch since the sole clip from "Hyde" that we do see looks like outtakes from the dumb framing device from that Metallica 3-D concert movie than an award-worthy blockbuster) and had to figure out a way of placating his former client and justifying his decision-making before his increasingly skeptical board of directors while simultaneously saving both the film and his job with the twerp's help. Of course, to do that might suggest that a Hollywood megastar did not know everything about everything and that certainly couldn't be allowed to happen. Instead (Spoiler Alert!), it turns out that the movie really is a masterpiece and the only reason the rube professes to dislike it (never mind the massive budget overruns) is because he is jealous that Vincent gets to sleep with Emily Ratajkowski (playing herself, none too steadily) and he doesn't. Look, I don't claim to be a story specialist by any stretch of the imagination but I can almost guarantee that something along my way of thinking would have played much better than the navel-gazing nonsense that was used, especially since the screenplay doesn't seem particularly interested in its own particulars anyway. (Ratajkowski, for example, just sort of disappears and is eventually replaced by another one of the several Sports Illustrated swimsuit models to be found in the cast list.)
The returning actors are all basically coasting through their parts in exchange for much-needed paydays and demonstrate conclusively that what passes muster on television does not necessarily work on the big screen--the notion that the charisma-free Grenier could suggest an actor bearing a Di Caprio-like magnetism might have been the funniest joke of all if it weren't for the fact that we are meant to take it seriously. Of them, the only one that makes even the most superficial impact is Piven and even he takes a long time before he finally gets into full-throated and foul-mouthed gear. Of the newcomers, Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment are amusing for a bit but then the former disappears while the latter falls victim to the increasingly insipid script machinations. Playing herself, Ronda Rousey demonstrates an undeniable screen charisma that is unfortunately diluted by the inescapable fact that she cannot act--if you had to choose between having her punch you in the face full-force or watching her act for 30 seconds, you would cheerfully go with the punch in the face. Not surprisingly, the film is also choked with cameos from famous names from all over the media spectrum and while I guess that such appearances make a certain degree of sense considering the setting, they do convey a certain desperation after a while as most of the people--including such luminaries as Jessica Alba, David Spade, Liam Neeson, Warren Buffett, Armie Hammer, Bob Saget, Pharrell Williams, Kelsey Grammer (whose bit is admittedly funny) and Mark Wahlberg accompanied by his actual entourage. (You can almost hear some guy in the theatre turning to his date and remarking "See, it's the real Entourage!" while she looks at her watch again.) Alas, it seems that Jessica Alba did not learn her lesson from the last time around but since I evidently didn't either, what say we just call it a draw.
Suppose you want to see a film that offers up a truly lacerating look at the dark side of Hollywood this weekend. Might I suggest two films of a certain vintage that nevertheless deal with concerns that are still relevant today--Blake Edwards' "S.O.B." and Robert Altman's "The Player." Whatever their flaws, those were films that had things to say about the Hollywood star machine and were made by people who were not afraid to say them, regardless of the consequences from their colleagues in the community. (Ironically, Altman's sour Valentine to the industry would inspire the comeback that would help drive the last phase of his career.) The people behind "Entourage," on the other hand, are more interested in making future deals than in scoring points and the result is little more than a live-action issue of "Maxim" magazine, sans the writing quality and respect for women. (If there was a single passable line of dialogue delivered by one of the female characters, I must have missed it.) The end result is a film so gauche that when Andrew Dice Clay--the nice man from that Woody Allen movie--pops up at one point, even he seems to be a little embarrassed by his surroundings.Author's Note. I would just like to point out that, unless I have overlooked it, I managed to write this entire review without utilizing the word "douchebag" once. Even I am impressed by this.
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