Movie star Vincent Chase (Grenier) is completing his directorial debut under the watchful eye of new studio-head, Ari Gold (Piven). Over budget, both men’s careers are on the line.
As the gaggle of celebrity exposés on American TV can attest, the Caligulan decadence of Hollywood excess makes for compulsive viewing. It was as part-parody, part-exploit of this that Doug Ellin wrote 2004’s Entourage for HBO, a half-hour series about a vacuous A-list movie star and his close-knit circle of friends-cum-hangers-on. The Player cut with a line of Swingers and snorted through a rolled up Playboy.
The show ran for eight years but there’s little catching up required. Box office darling Vincent Chase (Grenier) (we’re reminded by a smug Piers Morgan), spends time off-camera with less successful older brother, Drama (Dillon); driver, Turtle (Ferrara); and manager, E. (Connolly), all of whom hail from his hometown of Queens. That established and the finalé’s resolutions hastily unpicked, the film slips effortlessly back into the familiar medley of celebrity worship, bacchanalia and languid drives through LA traffic.
All of which is gravy for long-time viewers, whose reunion with Vince, E. and the gang is a welcome one, recapturing some of the energy lacking in later seasons. Vince is as flakey and vapid as ever, cluelessly stepping on his own career while trying to throw a leg over Gone Girl’s Emily Ratajkowski, E. juggles casual sex with impending fatherhood and a newly svelte Turtle has his heart stolen (and head pounded) by UFC star Ronda Rousey. Throw in some Drama drama and it’s like we never left. The actors have been at this long enough to know their marks and hit them well, using the all-but-incidental story to tie their absurd antics together. Piven is, no surprise, the standout, Ari Gold having lost none of his irascible appeal in the move from role-wrangler to corporate bigwig. His vein-throbbing tirades and withering put-downs make up the movie’s undisputed high points.
Of course, one of the reasons Entourage works so well is the characters are just as superficial and morally ambivalent as the world they inhabit; resistant to change, betterment or anything approaching actual growth. For newcomers, however, they’re a quartet of grade-A douchebags. Ellin makes some effort to smooth the twat pack’s rougher edges and Haley Joel Osment’s redneck financier provides a more flattering contrast, but they’re still far from sympathetic. Add to that a reliance on familiarity for many of the gags to land and newcomers will struggle to stay on side.
None of that will be a problem for stalwarts, for whom the sight of E. wandering through a party with a Viagra-induced erection or Drama masturbating furiously over Skype will prompt fond guffaws instead of awkward cringes. What will disappoint, however, is the lack of ambition. Yes there are cameos galore (albeit many of them recycled) and the final send-off is more fitting than the televised conclusion but there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. Even Entourage on autopilot holds its own, but for a show about making movies to not capitalise on doing just that is an embarrassing oversight.
Neither a Medellin-style disaster nor an Aquaman-sized hit, this pays decent fan service but an Ari-centric spinoff might have been the smarter move.