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Dustin Putman

Entourage  (2015)
1½ Stars
Directed by Doug Ellin.
Cast: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Perrey Reeves, Rex Lee, Haley Joel Osment, Billy Bob Thornton, Ronda Rousey, Debi Mazar, Rhys Coiro, Constance Zimmer, Scott Mescudi, Alan Dale, Emily Ratajkowski, Sabina Gadecki, Nina Agdal, Lucas Ellin, Nora Dunn, Bob Saget, Andrew Dice Clay, Jon Favreau, Piers Morgan, T.I., Gary Busey, Greg Louganis, Clay Matthews, Pharrell Williams, Liam Neeson, Ed O'Neill, Kelsey Grammer, Chad Lowe, David Spade, Warren Buffett, Jessica Alba, Common, Armie Hammer, David Faustino, Judy Greer, Richard Schiff, Tom Brady, Meagen Fay, George Takei, Matt Lauer, Maria Menounos, Calvin Harris, Russell Wilson, Martin Landau, Mark Cuban, Mark Wahlberg.
2015 – 104 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for pervasive language, strong sexual content, nudity and some drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, June 2, 2015.
Acclaimed Emmy-winning series "Entourage" ran for eight seasons (2004-2011) on HBO, an observant, cameo-filled, cuttingly humorous insider's look at the Hollywood milieu revolving around rising movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his close friends and business team. The show, loosely based on executive producer Mark Wahlberg's real-life experiences as an up-and-coming, in-demand celebrity, was certainly not perfect, its biggest stretch in plausibility coming from its inability to ever actually establish that Vince was a good actor. In fairness, the series did not deny this fact; even acid-tongued agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) said he got by solely on his looks and charisma. The problem is that, while one doesn't have to be a great actor to become popular, he or she does need to at least possess talent in order to have career longevity, and the show never really proved this. With that said, it was a fast, smart, endlessly watchable satire, buoyed by its authentic Los Angeles locale and a terrific ensemble.

Four years after the gang flew into the sunset headed for Vince's impulsive Paris wedding, "Entourage" has made the journey to the big screen in true "Sex and the City" style. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with TV-to-movie extensions, the same magic has not been successfully translated. Written and directed by show creator Doug Ellin (1998's "Kissing a Fool"), the film plays like a vapid spoof of its old self, at once ceaselessly middling, painfully contrived, and so over-the-top that it feels less like a fleet-footed exposé of Hollywood culture and more like a lame extended episode of "The Twilight Zone." Lazily relying on the good will of undiscriminating fans who will be happy regardless just by seeing the cast back together again, Ellin ups the misogyny to new levels while running in place with a collection of throwaway subplots that bypass all possible complexity for creative and dramatic dead-ends.

Eight months after Vince's hasty marriage annulment, he is putting the finishing touches on his directorial debut, "Hyde," a $100-million futuristic retelling of "Jekyll and Hyde." Now a studio head who has put his reputation on the line to bankroll the project, producer Ari is nervous to see if he has a hit or a turkey on his hands. With the budget ballooning and Vince needing an additional $15-million to complete the film, Texas father-son co-financiers Larsen (Billy Bob Thornton) and Travis McCredle (Haley Joel Osment, a Southern-drawled bright spot) have said that they will only pony up the extra dough if they like what they see. Travis' post-screening notes are extensive, but his sticking point is Vince's older brother, Johnny 'Drama' Chase (Kevin Dillon), whose small but pivotal role he wants cut. Vince's best friend and manager, Eric 'E' Murphy (Kevin Connolly), has his own issues; on-again-currently-off-again girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is days away from giving birth to their first child when he learns that one of his rebound girlfriends, Melanie (Sanina Gadecki), may also be pregnant. As for Vince's driver, self-made entrepreneur Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), he has his eyes on professional MMA fighter Ronda Rousey (as herself) and he's willing to do whatever it takes to win her over—including facing her in the ring.

Out of all 96 episodes of "Entourage," not even the weakest ones were as insipid and unsatisfying as this pretty much worthless continuation. Picking up with characters who, judging by what has found its way in front of the camera, had nowhere left to go, writer-director Doug Ellin has built his film on prefabricated story threads that either come off as afterthoughts or check the box on "momentous occasions," like having a baby and getting married (the latter's ceremony shoved all the way into the middle of the end credits and then treated as a joke rather than the sweet moment it could have been). The earnest, lovelorn E has been turned into a leering creep who ogles scantily-clad ladies in a swimming pool while talking about his hard-on and sleeps with two women in a 24-hour people while holding out hope he and Sloan might one day reconcile. Turtle's pursuit of Ronda shows promise—they are a likable pair, and she is especially ingratiating in her own take-charge way—but their precious few scenes lack substance because the script doesn't allow their relationship to go anywhere of note.

It is the central narrative throughline, however—Vince's first directing effort, and the struggles he and Ari have with the wealthy, pistol-packing Larsen and Travis as they try to complete the final edit—where the film most egregiously misses the mark. The failure of "Hyde" could very well make or break Ari at the studio. When he finally sits down to watch it, the clip shown looks abominable, a synthetic, self-indulgent fiasco that reminds, at best, of Kathryn Bigelow's "Strange Days" by way of Uwe Boll. The viewer sinks down, waiting for Ari's dismayed, no doubt profanity-laced reaction. Instead, he promptly gifts Vince with a car for what he claims, without irony, will be an Oscar contender. If this weren't preposterous enough for a picture that resembles a mid-'90s, possibly direct-to-video, Dimension Films release, the payoff in the final moments (which will go unrevealed here) are so at odds with reality that it feels like nothing more than a fever dream. If the TV series of "Entourage" prided itself on its overall authentic depiction of the entertainment industry, the film jumps the shark into wish-fulfillment fantasy that isn't honest with its characters, the world they live in, or the audience.

Most of the actors are back, from the leads to the recurring players, though many—like Debi Mazar (2013's "Lovelace") as sharp-shooting publicist Shauna, Constance Zimmer (2015's "Results") as studio president Dana Gordon, and Rhys Coiro (2011's "Straw Dogs") as independent filmmaker Billy Walsh—are given no more than a handful of lines. Kevin Connolly (2010's "Secretariat"), playing the arguable moral center of the group as E, is stuck with a ham-fisted conflict involving two potential pregnancies and the woman he truly loves, though by now he and Sloan have broken up and gotten back together so many times it is worthy of an eye roll. As Sloan, the radiant Emmanuelle Chriqui (2008's "You Don't Mess with the Zohan") is imprisoned by the shackles of hackneyed scripting and has to spend the film nine months pregnant, because isn't that what is always done with female love interests in sequels that have no better idea what to do with them?

As Vincent Chase, Adrian Grenier (2006's "The Devil Wears Prada") kind of feels like a supporting participant in his own story. Kevin Dillon (2009's "Hotel for Dogs") is ever a winning, self-deprecating presence as perpetually struggling actor Johnny Drama, but his comedic relief here seems more forced than usual. Jerry Ferrara (2013's "Lone Survivor") hasn't missed a beat as the easy-going, good-time Turtle, though why his weight loss is referenced repeatedly throughout is a mystery since he had already gone through this physical transformation in the final two seasons of the series. Jeremy Piven (2014's "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"), always the standout as unfiltered hotshot agent-turned-studio-head Ari Gold, doesn't have as much to do as he should, his character's signature un-PC barbs never as funny or memorable as they were on the show. His rocky but loving marriage with Melissa (Perrey Reeves)—such an emotionally potent force in the past—is flung to the wayside; there is one scene where they visit their longtime therapist (Nora Dunn), but nothing is done with it and Perrey Reeves (2006's "American Dreamz") is wasted. And then there's Rex Lee, a lovable, heart-on-his-sleeve joy as Ari's long-suffering (yet admiring) assistant-turned-agent Lloyd. The treatment of his character, turning his same-sex wedding into a punchline and his groom into Greg Louganis of all people (his boyfriend on the show has since vanished with no mention of what happened to him), prompts one final groan.

"Entourage" botches things big time, right down to the inexplicable choice to pick up with the timeline at virtually the exact point the characters were left off. Corroborating Thomas Wolfe's wizened adage that you can't go home again, Ellis provides no discernible reason for his film's existence, weaving a story that feels tacked-on and a screenplay that is missing much of its trademark acerbic charm. The awesome L.A.-montage opening credits and use of resident theme song "Superhero" by Jane's Addiction kick the proceedings off on the right foot, but it is all downhill once it becomes apparent that there is a whole lot of wheel-spinning going on. Not as sharp, or as amusing, or as dramatically engaging, or as honest as its small-screen source material, "Entourage" is a distinctly disappointing revisit to a Californian landscape that somehow isn't as glittering or electric as it was four years ago.
© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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