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Entourage: Making Fame and Fortune Look Bad

You could accuse it of glamorizing the shallow hedonism it depicts

  | February 26, 2016 10:21 IST
<I>Entourage</i>: Making Fame and Fortune Look Bad
  • Genre:
    Comedy
  • Cast:
    Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Perrey Reeves, Rex Lee, Debi Mazar, Constance Zimmer, Haley Joel Osment, Ronda Rousey, Emily Ratajkowski and Billy Bob Thornton
  • Director:
    Doug Ellin
Entourage begins in the waters off Ibiza, with a yacht party attended by many women, some of whom seem to have misplaced their bikini tops. The host is Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier), the movie star whose short marriage has just ended in a no-hard-feelings split. Also in attendance are his half brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon) and their pals Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Eric (Kevin Connolly), who is also Vince's manager. A phone call raises Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), Vince's longtime agent who is coming out of retirement to run a studio.

There isn't really much more to say. By the time it reached the end of its HBO run in 2011, Entourage had grown staler than last night's Axe body spray. The passing of a few more years has not improved the aroma. Watching the movie is like finding an ancient issue of a second-tier lad mag - not even Maxim, but Loaded or Nuts - in a friend's guest bathroom. You wonder how it got there.

In my case, it was the same way the people on screen got there: because someone paid me. Why anyone would run the transaction in reverse is puzzling enough to be worth pondering, and also too depressing to contemplate. It's rare to see a movie of any kind pander to its imagined audience with such unabashed cynicism. On cable, there was sometimes a glimmer of satire or a hint of heart, and also an appealing pseudo-democratic idea about the accessibility of money and celebrity in a world that worships them. If ordinary guys from Queens like Vince and his bros could make it in Hollywood - could score with those hotties, drive those cars, make that money - then anyone could.

Yeah, well, anyone can't, and the big-screen Entourage, written and directed by Doug Ellin, wants to be sure you know that. Your job is to envy the guys, not to share what is rightfully theirs. To drive the point home, the movie casts Haley Joel Osment as a rival for Vince, a rich Texas kid named Travis whose oilman dad (Billy Bob Thornton) is helping to finance Vince's big-budget passion project, a futuristic retelling of the Jekyll and Hyde story. (The snippet we're shown looks stupider than the movie that contains it, but not enough so to make it effective satire.) Travis, dumpy and uncouth, has the temerity to think that he could have a life like Vince's.

Turtle and Eric have already realized that fantasy - Turtle has slimmed down and made a lot of money in the liquor business; Eric is the producer of Hyde; even poor Johnny gets plenty of action - but the difference is that they deserve it. I guess because they're more authentic or something.
But Grenier and Vince are both far too bland and passive to be credible movie stars, and Connolly's knowing smirk, meant to signal Eric's integrity, has the opposite effect. Turtle? Whatever.

Dillon at least keeps up the strenuous mugging that made Johnny a comic fixture of the show, something to give you a chuckle while you waited for the next outbreak of toplessness.

It says a lot about Entourage and the world it belongs to that the women who keep their clothes mostly on are named in the main credits at the end of the film, while those who expose themselves are relegated to the "additional credits" along with the celebrities who play themselves. (Among these are Warren Buffett, Liam Neeson and of course Mark Wahlberg, who is also a producer.) Emily Ratajkowski shows up as a love interest for Vince, and then discreetly vanishes so that various guys can talk, almost respectfully, about how hot she is. Emmanuelle Chriqui returns as Sloan, Eric's longtime (now ex-) girlfriend and the soon-to-be mother of his child. Perrey Reeves is Ari's wife.

This is not a movie about women, though. It's about Hollywood, which is to say about the narcissism, neediness and sexual entitlement of men. It sometimes pretends to make fun of those things, but let's not kid ourselves. You could accuse it of glamorizing the shallow hedonism it depicts, but that charge would only stick if the movie had any genuine flair, romance or imagination. Instead, it has the frantic Ari, whose career, once a half-clever inside joke, has become a shaggy-dog story. He's upstaged here by Thornton's lean, mean Texan, whose code of loyalty is equal to Ari's and who boasts that he never sees the movies he pays for. That may make him the smartest guy in this one, and even something of a role model.
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