At one point in the TV series Entourage’s final season, movie star Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier), after being rejected by a Vanity Fair journalist, wonders about his relationship with women. “She said, ‘You are not very deep’,” he tells his friend and manager E (Kevin Connolly), one of the three friends who forms Vince’s entourage. “Yeah, but you already knew that,” E replies, who might as well have been talking about the TV series—an easy-going, fun show that was about boys trapped in the frame of men, constantly avoiding the ultimate life turn: growing up. The show ended on an agreeable, pleasing note—in fact, a little too agreeable (read: convenient)—but it still remained quite likeable, because it knew its characters well.
The movie version of the show, however, which goes by the same name, begins on a note that completely betrays its finale. Nearly every convenient plot point in the final episode is undone—Vince’s marriage doesn’t last more than nine days, and he’s back to his philandering ways; Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) breaks up with E, who has—surprise!—moved on; Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), similarly, returns to Hollywood (now no longer as the agent but the head of a movie studio) after spending just a few weeks in Italy with his family. These bits point toward the fact that these men are still… boys; they haven’t grown up and, by that account, haven’t changed at all. Their transformation towards the series’ end was just a hurried attempt to wrap up the show. So at this point in the film, well under its first ten minutes, you are essentially faced with two choices: stick with either the series’ finale or its new movie avatar, because both versions don’t make sense at the same time.
I chose to remain with the film, and my initial reservation about its amateurish start slowly began to wane, because it soon becomes clear that Doug Ellin, the show’s creator and the film’s director, still knows his characters, and the dynamics shared by them, quite well. Ari, clearly the star of the show and this film as well, is always just one moment away from a meltdown that is both endearing and hilarious. Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), Vince’s elder (half) brother, is still pretty much paranoid, narcissistic and insecure. A few characters, however, have also changed in some unexpected ways—E is no longer the stuck up conservative Queens lad; Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) now, buoyed by his own financial success, no longer depends on Vince. The new plot points, too—of Vince directing a futuristic movie called Hyde that has been bankrolled by Ari’s studio—sufficiently raise the stakes that keep you interested in the movie’s ultimate outcome. The jokes, too, keep flying frequently: Ari’s acerbic one-liners, Johnny’s not so clever repartees that reflect his inner angst, the banter between Turtle and Johnny. We are in familiar territory now, dawdling through similar scenes and set ups that made the TV series enjoyable.
The movie’s depiction of its female characters, and the jokes on their expense, however, do tend to cross the line at times, something that was present in the TV series, too, but there, the luxury of time also allowed Ellin and his writers to create several strong female characters. Dana Gordon, a feisty studio head, refused to be bullied by Ari; Sloan was smart and confident enough to make her own decisions; Ari’s wife walked out of her marriage when she saw it couldn’t be salvaged. The TV series Entourage, in that case, by reducing its peripheral female characters to “eye candies”, was reflecting Hollywood’s long-standing gender bias; it wasn’t being the symptom of the problem. The universe of the film, though (as evidenced by three to four scenes), is less forgiving towards women. But does it reflect poorly on the film? That’s a tricky question that can be possibly answered by two further questions: Do those few scenes support a troubling worldview? Yes. But do such people, especially in Hollywood, exist? Yes.
However, Entourage heavily relies on one’s familiarity with the TV series, because it’s quite clearly a movie for the fans of the show. As a result, Ellin devotes nearly no screen time in fleshing out the film’s characters, and hence, someone unfamiliar with the show is likely to be tuned out pretty soon. The film, in its final act, also shares the sloppiness of the original: here, too, one of the threads in the climax appears too convenient and cute (even bordering on being manipulative); the central conflict is a terrible cop-out and resolved way too easily. But anyone who has loved the show for long enough will find it difficult not to warm up to the film, its seemingly bigger version, which essentially revolves around similar concerns or, just like its characters, hasn’t grown up. But that doesn’t matter a lot. Entourage, for the most part, is a delightful repetition. This is Doug Ellin and Mark Wahlberg being as generous as they can: holding a private screening, worth $27.5 million, for their fans who don’t mind enjoyable fluff once in a while.
An edited version of this review was published at Firstpost.