I remember my elation when I saw the first episodes of HBO’s “Entourage” in 2004. Here, at last, was a situation-comedy about backstage life in Hollywood that seemed to have it all: venality, outsized egos, even greater insecurity, greed and self-interest. If that wasn’t a recipe for comedy, what was?
If it was never as sharp-edged as “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Entourage” still had its pleasures and delivered them regularly. I stuck with the show for its entire run, enjoying its sometimes repetitive plotting: Will Vincent Chase, played by Adrien Grenier, rise above his own good-time impulses and artistic whims to fashion a viable career as an actor, guided by super-agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven)? Will the boyhood friends who support him and keep him grounded (Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connelly) ultimately succumb to the shallower temptations of Hollywood and inadvertently torpedo him?
Show-creator Doug Ellin kept the show rolling, finding enough improbable plot twists and laughs every week – cheap ones, smart ones, knowing ones, vulgar ones – to keep me tuning in. Even when the show started to wind down, it always delivered on the laughs.
Which is the principal problem with “Entourage” as a movie: There are barely as many laughs in its slack 104 minutes as in the average 30-minute episode. Which makes it a lot like the “Sex and the City” movies.
What is the point of spinning a much-admired TV series into a full-length movie, if not to take it places it couldn’t go on the small screen? This film feels like one of those “special” episodes that sitcoms occasionally do, when they jump from 30 minutes to an hour. The problem is the same: More time doesn’t equal more laughs; it just creates bloat.
The plot here focuses on Vince, who needs money to finish his mega-million-dollar directorial debut, a modern take on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in which he stars. There are subplots (Ari must deal with a Texas billionaire and his son – Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment – who hold the purse strings for his studio) and, of course, girl and career problems for the posse.
Eric (Connelly), Vince’s manager, is divorcing Sloane (Emmanuelle Chriqui), but she’s about to have his baby – so he’s trying to balance lingering feelings for her with his own still-active sex drive. Johnny Drama (Dillon), Vince’s half-brother, is having a career crisis, counting on his role in Vince’s film to relaunch him, but concerned about the possibility of being cut from the movie. And Turtle (Ferrara) is trying to figure out how to start dating martial-arts champ Ronda Rousey. Oh, and Lloyd (Rex Lee), Ari’s former assistant, is getting married and wants to have his wedding at Ari’s house and wants Ari to give him away. That provides an avenue for what are meant to be smart jokes about gay stereotypes.
Still, Piven is the only one who delivers laughs. Those come primarily in the scenes of Ari trying to hold his temper around his family and then attempting to talk his way through a therapy session with his unamused wife (Perrey Reeves) and steely therapist (Nora Dunn).
There is the usual array of random celebrity cameos, from rapper T.I. to actor Armie Hammer. And there are far too many scenes of near-“Spring Breakers”-level partying by people who seem to be strenuously acting out the idea of having a good time. It is excess, but excess to no particular end except to elicit “Wow – that looks like a big party” reactions. And they never show the clean-up crew.
“Entourage” the TV series had a sometimes caustic self-awareness about the aggressively craven and shallow world that the movie business can be. “Entourage” the movie simply feels like everyone is sleepwalking, going through the motions, with their focus on cashing the check.