Thursday, June 4, 2015


Doug Ellin should call Steve Pink to thank him personally.

Were it not for the latter's "Hot Tub Time Machine 2," Ellin's "Entourage" would be the worst movie of the first half of 2015. Vacuous, retrograde and mind-numbingly unfunny, this highly unanticipated film of the HBO series plays like a star-studded episode in which nothing much happens, at considerable expense and undue length.

For the uninitiated, Adrian Grenier plays Vincent Chase, a young movie star who brings his boys to Hollywood with him: brother Johnny, aka Drama (Kevin Dillon), a C-list actor; producer/manager Eric (Kevin Connolly); and driver Turtle (newly svelte Jerry Ferrara). A fundamental problem with the picture is that, as presented here, Vince is a cipher, an empty shell. It's fine for the focus to fall primarily on his coterie (hence the title), but without a strong center, they're just three randoms, spokes in search of a hub.

The star of the TV show was Jeremy Piven, who reprises his role as anger-filled agent Ari Gold. When I hear Piven's name, though, I'll always think of David Mamet's comment, upon Piven's departure from a Broadway revival of "Speed-the-Plow" citing elevated levels of mercury from overconsumption of sushi: "My understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer." As for Ari, it's an over-the-top part, and Piven finds no way to add nuance or texture to it.

The plot, such as it is, involves "Hyde," Ari's first big-budget movie as the newly installed head of a major studio, in which Vince agreed to star only if he could also direct. Vince needs a few more mil to finish production, but the Texas multi-billionaire bankrolling half the studio's slate (Billy Bob Thornton) has turned the spigot off until his dipshit son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) comes to L.A. and signs off on "Hyde" (which, in brief snippets, looks like the worst video game ever made). 

Eric's subplot involves his baby mama and the two "L.A. 10" model-actresses he fucks within hours of each other. Connolly doesn't look the part, but this strand does culminate in an amusing three-way meeting at a coffeehouse. Meanwhile, Turtle lands a series of dates with the MMA fighter Ronda Rousey (a game presence in a go-nowhere storyline), while Travis insists that Drama's handful of scenes be cut from "Hyde." Dillon only appeals as a meathead, so the idea that Johnny "shows something" in these scenes (enough to win, in a lame coda, a Golden Globe for Supporting Actor) strains credulity.

The through line - and Grenier has shockingly little to do here - involves a hot actress that (I think) all the guys fuck at one time or another. Women exist in the world of "Entourage" purely as sex objects. Not one has a functioning brain cell. Gays are effeminate queens who live for "a good ass-fucking." All of this I could abide if any of it were funny. There is exactly one hilarious line in the movie. I suspect it was unintentional. It comes in passing and quickly gets lost in the shuffle. In fact, if you see "Entourage" despite my warning and report back to me the one great line, I'll refund your ticket.

Ellin has obviously gone Hollywood. The nouveau-riche theme of "Entourage" parallels his own story. His camera lingers as lovingly on the trappings of wealth as on his favorite parts of the female anatomy. In a clever opening credit sequence, he lists his name almost as many times as Eddie Murphy did in "Harlem Nights." He has called in every conceivable chit to make the movie a parade of cameos (including a head-scratcher by Warren Buffett and two separate walk-ons by series inspiration and executive producer Mark Wahlberg). The effect is to negate any possible narrative drive and to produce a monotone hum. "Entourage" takes place on Level 1. There is no Level 2.

The writing is without grace. Ellin is not and never will be an L.A. guy, which is fine, but this movie, ostensibly made for his industry cronies, reflects a permanent outsider's assessment of Angelenos. At one point, Ari explains that he hitched himself to Vince's boat and never got off, "not even when the water was cold and the orchestra was playing." Turtle says, "A 'Titanic' reference.'" For the benefit of what troglodyte did Ellin feel the need to include that explanation? Dear reader, it is you.


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