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There’s a lot to hate about Entourage. Three of its leading quartet of characters are abhorrently lame. For a mainstream comedy, it doesn’t come close to possessing enough laughs. While we’re at it, it’s so thinly and predictably plotted that it’s the cinematic equivalent of a dot-to-dot puzzle.
But there’s also something so utterly intoxicating about Vincent Chase’s lifestyle that spending two hours in his world never actually feels dull, and you find yourself being more and more drawn in to the constant excess (and access) on display. That’s exactly why Entourage -- both the show and now the movie -- works. It also helps that the movie knows exactly what it is, and is always looking to play up to its appeal. Overtly masculine, a second doesn’t go by without the film providing a beautiful woman, a flashy car, drugs, booze, sun or general opulence on screen.
Just look at its opening sequence, which sees longtime HBO series regulars Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly), Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) traveling on a lavish speedboat to an even more extravagant yacht where their old friend, Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), is celebrating his divorce just off the coast of Ibiza, Spain. They’re instantly greeted by sways of beautiful, scantily clad gals, each of whom are dancing perfectly to a thumping track, while Chase is already over his 9-day marriage.
Life is great for the foursome as the movie kicks into gear. And they know it. But Chase is looking to broaden his career, and he tells his former agent and now studio-head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) that he wants to direct the next project he stars in. Gold agrees, but 8 months later, Chase’s vanity project Hyde is already over budget, and the first-time director is asking for more money to complete the edit. The father and son financiers (played by the always glorious Billy Bob Thornton and competent Haley Joel Osmont) want to see the film before they agree to cut more checks, though, which causes immense strife between Ari, Vince and the out-of-town duo.
The tight-knit posse and their organic camaraderie is what made Entourage so popular during its eight-season run on HBO. It also actually helps that Eric, Turtle and Vinny are completely void of charisma and personality. That should be a negative, and I’d be very surprised if Connolly, Ferrara and Grenier intentionally played their characters in such an insipid fashion. But their everyman shtick truly allows each viewer to appreciate and be compelled by the luxurious surroundings without being pre-occupied by interesting characterization or intriguing stories. The characters don’t distract from the lavish scenery. It shouldn’t work. But somehow, it does.
Writer and director Doug Ellin also packs his movie screen with countless celebrity cameos, each of which are deployed in an understated fashion that makes their appearances feel completely natural. Kelsey Grammer, Armie Hammer, Thierry Henry, Richard Schiff and Liam Neeson’s pop-ins are particular highlights of this feature-length Entourage episode. Ellin also underscores his proceedings with a catchy, modern soundtrack that allows Entourage to bounce along gregariously, and he makes sure not to over-complicate the film and its dialogue with Hollywood mumbo-jumbo, instead giving us a simplified insight into how the film industry works.
Because of the aforementioned vapid trio, it’s up to Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold and Dillon’s “Drama” to steal the film, and they successfully drag Entourage through its trite narratives thanks to their tenacious performances. It’s safe to say that Kevin Dillon will never top playing Drama. He’s so perfectly entwined with the character’s sensibilities and traits that you immediately raise a smile whenever he’s on-screen. His R-rated sub-plot is also one of the only amusing narratives that Entourage has for the titular crew – Turtle’s romance with Ronda Rousey; E being a lothario; and Vinny gently flirting with Emily Ratajkowski and being bashful about the final edit of his movie are all duds.
But Entourage is really Jeremy Piven’s movie. He injects a tenacity and energy into the narrative, which keeps the film afloat. His outbursts of rage, as expected by anyone who has seen the show, provide the film’s funniest moments. Without him, Entourage (both the show and the movie) would have been a catastrophic failure. With him, Entourage is still nowhere near as funny as it should be, but it's a welcome insight into the glitzy and glamorous world of A-list Hollywood that you’ll hate yourself for being engrossed by.