The wrath pack
About 15 minutes into writer-director Doug Ellin’s Entourage, a limp cinematic expansion of the canceled HBO show of the same name, a beloved character remarks, “Fun is when you forget a girl’s name while you’re fucking her.” I’m usually a copious taker of notes at screenings, especially when I know I’ll be reviewing the film, but at this point I put my pen and pad away. It was bad enough that someone put these words to paper even once without me committing the same sin.
Entourage has already received a lot of blowback from (mostly male) film critics for its objectification of women, but that’s really missing the forest for the stems. Yes, the portrayal of women here is as juvenile as you would expect—females are either the lip-licking ass-grinders that you anonymously screw, or they’re the super-annoying wives and girlfriends who roll their eyes and patiently wait for you to grow the fuck up—but Entourage is far uglier in its portrayal of men. I’m not qualified to determine if that’s regress or progress; I just know that Entourage is an extremely poor movie.
It wasn’t always this way. The series debuted on HBO in 2004, and for the first couple of seasons it played as mostly harmless, relatively self-aware insider baseball. The show followed the ascent of the mercurial and magnetic young actor Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), who set out to conquer Hollywood with his old neighborhood buddies—pizza thrower turned manager Eric (Kevin Connolly), motormouth driver Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and overshadowed actor brother Johnny (overshadowed actor brother Kevin Dillon, in a clever bit of meta-casting)—as well as his walking hate-crime of an agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven).
The series provided an irresistible, cameo-filled glimpse inside the petty hedonism of young Hollywood, but there was also a sense of self-mockery, as though the creators understood their protagonists’ shallowness all too well (the show is loosely based on the early Hollywood adventures of Mark Wahlberg, who makes an extended cameo here). Very quickly, though, that formula curdled and fossilized, and suddenly we were supposed to find these loathsome douchebags likeable and relatable, people to actively root for rather than merely accept.
Entourage the movie also believes that we’re emotionally invested in seeing these Hollywood shitheads fall ass-backwards into their dreams. Maybe that’s why there doesn’t appear to have been any attempt to make something a unique or compelling (or even funny) film. Nothing and no one gets satirized in Entourage, and Ellin has the litany of shit-eating celebrity cameos to prove it. The parade of smug and self-congratulating guest stars gives the film its only real shot of energy, but we’re also left to watch Grenier and Connolly and Ferrara get out-acted by nonprofessional actors like Russell Wilson and Warren Buffett and David Arquette. Piven and Dillon can actually act, but their characters are so buried in “fan-friendly” shtick by this point, it doesn’t even matter.
As the film opens, Vincent is celebrating his quickie divorce with a babe-filled boat party off the coast of Ibiza, but like every unsatisfied actor, what he really wants to do is direct. Fast forward a year, and agent-turned-studio-head Ari has greenlit Vincent’s over-budget passion project Hyde, and the gang fears that they may have an expensive dud on their hands. While Vincent and Ari protect the film from ravenous Texas investors, Johnny frets that his part will get cut, Turtle celebrity-stalks MMA fighter Ronda Rousey and Eric indulges in casting couch conquests while trying to reconcile with his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
The best joke in the film is unintentional: Hyde, which appears to be an unwatchable ego trip about a shape-shifting disc jockey in a police-state dystopia, is totally awesome somehow, beloved by audiences and critics and festooned with awards. Ellin genuinely seems to think that great movies get made without any effort, which explains why Entourage feels like four TV episodes lazily assembled into a feature-length afterparty. Unfortunately, spending more than a half hour at a time with these characters only makes them more nauseating. Entourage isn’t a binge watch, it’s a purge watch.