If all good parties must come to an end, Entourage was the one host that never wanted to show its attendees the door. Lingering on for 96 episodes, the series road its collection of offbeat characters and big-shot cameos up and down the sun-soaked California coast only to find itself back in the place it started.
By returning via the big screen four years after the series finale, Entourage undoubtedly is aimed at fans of the series during its heyday and those finding it for the first time through video streaming, which leaves a question mark surrounding how big of a ceiling the film has.
To bridge the gap in mediums, the film uses media lightning-rod Piers Morgan for an amusing magazine-style news segment to refresh old viewers on where the story left off and introduce the characters to new viewers. Morgan cites the “weird collection of people” that helped pave Vincent Chase’s path to stardom, yet somehow “it worked,” because it was never really about their journey. The highs and lows were never as dramatic, or taken as seriously, as the show wanted to make it seem.
Despite low expectations and the story skipping over an era in Hollywood, Entourage throws what is likely the most lavish “Throwback Thursday” party to ever hit the big screen. Ellin weaves a season’s worth of plotlines into a breezy popcorn flick that matches the series’ highs and far exceeds its star-fucking quota. At 104 minutes, the three-episode arc of a film rekindled the charm that was missing from the listless back-end of its eight-season run on HBO.
Entourage picks with the boys coping with Vince’s failed marriage in the only way they know how: on a yacht where the beautiful women flow like wine. Once returned to Los Angeles, we find out that these are hardly the people we knew from the series. Jerry Ferrara’s Turtle, or mini Mark Cuban, is loaded from his successful Tequila venture. Kevin Dillon’s Johnny Drama finally has a buzz-worthy part in a film. Kevin Connolly’s Eric Murphy is the raging sex-lunatic we always knew he could be. But more impressively, it’s Adrian Grenier’s Vincent Chase who shook off his demons and all those titillating, yet unfulfilling sexual conquests to come to the realization that he wants to do something “meaningful.”
Vince’s passion now lies with pulling double-duty as a director and actor for newly crowned studio head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). As fast as concerns are raised about Vince’s directing chops, the film’s central focus becomes the battle between Ari and wealthy Texan financier Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton) and his clownish entitled son, Travis (Haley Joel Osment).
During the series it was Piven who lifted the pressure off much of the ensemble and he does so again here by waging war with the cartoon character played by Osment. In a story that sets out to unpack life lessons, the crux of the film is the more cinematic approach to the standoff between Ari, Vince, and the co-financiers of the film. What helps distract us from Osment’s two-dimensional character is having Vince focused on the final product, helping his career and saving his brother’s in the process. When Entourage was at its best was when Vince all in on his career, rather than his post-Medellin, pill-popping days.
With Vince’s arc firmly in place and Ari’s plight set as the backbone of the film, we can look to the periphery. The episodic elements that feel right at home within the sweet-spot of the series are of course Drama, the fan favorite, who doesn’t skip a beat and provides enough belly laughs to justify the price of admission. Turtle’s irrelevant side plot/comedy sketch with MMA superstar Ronda Rousey is enough to make you long for the days when he was heartsick over Sopranos bombshell Jamie-Lynn Singler. Rex Lee’s Lloyd isn’t in the film nearly enough, save for his post-credit nuptials. To list off the names of celebrity cameos after viewing the film in one sitting would require a superhuman feat of concentration, though plenty of familiar faces—series producer Mark Wahlberg, Bob Saget, Martin Landau’s Bob Ryan and Rhys Coiro’s Billy Walsh—are a welcome sight.
The only real surprise in the film is E using LA as his own sexual playground, ruining his relationship with Sloan as their baby is on the way. Very nearly does Ellin teach E the best lesson of all, but—and it’s a shocker—the guys of Entourage get what they want in the end. Then again, you wandered into the wrong theater if you thought the women in this film would be anything other than toys for the ageless male talent in Hollywood to play with.
It’s worth noting that the goodwill the series built up, 26 Emmy nominations with six wins and positive critical reception for most of its original run, eroded by the time the film was announced. In many ways, the series was the male successor to HBO’s landmark series Sex and the City. Also releasing a film four years after its series finale, the Sex and the City feature took in more than $400 million at the box office. Whether Entourage can match the appeal of its female counterpart will soon be answered.
For the fans that do come back, albeit with lower expectations, and the newcomers, the film goes out on a stronger note than the series finale. When it comes to big-screen adaptations for television series, Entourage is a clear “VICTORY,” even for Johnny Drama.