The ride to the top is so much better when you share it with your crew.
That’s the modern-day adage cited by A-lister Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) in the flashy and gratuitous Entourage, a rose-tinted look at the bigtime Hollywood lifestyle. A continuation of the HBO series that ran for eight seasons, Entourage centers on Vince and his tightly knit band of brothers as he tries to clear the final hurdles in making Hyde, an over-budget action movie in which he stars and directs. The decision to insert a first-timer into the director’s chair for a mega-movie – especially in an unstable Hollywood climate – was a deathly gamble made by his friend and agent-turned-studio head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven).
But Vince needs several million more for some finishing touches on visual effects, and he’s already gone over budget several times. And if Ari’s over-the-top freakouts are any indication, this is a huge deal, with careers, reputations, and millions of dollars on the line.
Even so, we never see Chase dirty his hands with his craft. Instead, the film is more concerned with the relatively smaller dealings of him and his crew. Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), Chase’s half-brother and the non-sequitur-spewing womanizer of the group, tries his absolute hardest to raise his status as a serious actor, and his supporting role in Hyde is his biggest shot – one under threat of being cut from the film, as Vince later discovers.
Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) strives to earn some respect around town for once, despite making millions spearheading his own tequila company. He even tries to win the heart of UFC superstar Ronda Rousey (as herself), a mismatched song-and-dance that builds to a predictable conclusion: she can kick anyone’s ass.
Vince even has a dating life with supermodel Emily Ratajkowski (as herself), and her role serves to be more impactful to Hyde’s final roadblocks than the business dealings themselves. What could have been a compelling and entertaining plot instead feels superficial and vapid, playing second-fiddle to the movie’s subplot ensemble.
But the bright spot and scene-stealer here by far is Ari, whose rants and meltdowns deliver plenty of laughter and fun – even more than Johnny’s endless supply of one-liners. A Golden Globe winner for his work on the show, Piven brings a welcome energy to a Hollywood tale that mostly feels as if it were a two-hour season finale. Considering his success in the role, it'd be safe to assume Piven's appeal here is a matter of consistency from the show.
From here, it becomes quickly evident that Entourage is mostly tailored to fans of the show, with multiple punchlines relying on events preceding the film. For newcomers, motivations and goals are quickly explained in the opening scene on a fancy yacht, which features more flowing drinks and topless women than a brothel in Game of Thrones. While their intentions don’t take long to explain, it would have been infinitely more satisfying to fully know the men behind them.
At the very least, Entourage does a good job of weaving its fictional characters and plots into the fabric of Hollywood with location shooting and a wealth of celebrity cameos, including athletes, movie stars, musicians; you name it. Liam Neeson! Jessica Alba! Tom Brady! Even without a strong enough plot to support the immense cast, the cameos prove entertaining enough to be its own little game: spot as many as you can. Entourage does everything it can to fully immerse itself in the LA scene, lending its tale a hint of authenticity.
Entourage is the Los Angeles dream brought to us with male camaraderie and a touch of fantasy. But without a compelling story to complete it, Entourage feels quite empty, even as it drips in excess with wit, sex, and expensive playthings. Entourage might be kinder to longtime fans, but newcomers may wonder if the movie offers enough to make this last ride truly worthwhile.
Written by Doug Ellin and Rob Weiss. Directed by Doug Ellin.
Starring Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, and Jeremy Piven.