If the question of what would happen to the big-dreaming boys from Queens occupied you for one minute after Entourage finished its eighth season in 2011, then Entourage the movie might be your kind of superfluous entertainment. If not, then stay far, far away. After all, this is not a film so much as it is a shrugging “Sure, why the hell not?” afterthought of a media brand extension. Yes, writer/director Doug Ellin includes a brief recap for those folks wandering into the wrong theater who don’t understand why they’re following the medium-heat adventures of this genial movie star and his buddies and their rage-prone agent. But with the autopilot plot, about up-and-down movie star Vincent (Adrian Grenier) deciding he wants to direct a dark futuristic epic that could sink the career of his old agent and now movie-studio head Ari (Jeremy Piven), Ellin barely concocts enough new material to fill two episodes let alone a whole film.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. One of the show’s most salient aspects was its gleaming and glossy slacker confidence that it just didn’t need to work that hard. Much of it was, in fact, a wish-fulfillment fantasy about not being a working stiff. The show’s conceit, a gloss on the Hollywood struggles of Mark Wahlberg (a producer), was that Vince (Adrian Grenier) was a maybe-talented but certainly charming actor who moved from Queens to Hollywood with buddies Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) to crash with his older working-actor brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon) and learn the ropes. Much like HBO’s more anticipated, and thusly much harder-working and much less entertaining, films continuing the saga of Sex and the City, Entourage does as little as possible to mess with the original formula.
When the show started, Vince was already skyrocketing to fame, Eric and Turtle were staying busy as his hangers-on, and Johnny, a jobber whose resume of off-brand cable credits and almost-got-it auditions struck the most honest chord of any character, was struggling with being so quickly surpassed by his kid brother. The half-hour episodes turned on tiny wrinkles in the basic premise of watching Vince and the boys live the good life of long brunches, babe-thick parties, luxuriantly work-free days in a variety of faux-Spanish mansions, and sunny drives in gleaming new vehicles. By the time it ended, the show-runners had killed and resurrected Vince’s career so many times that even the series’ already low-wattage enjoyments had worn thin.
Entourage the film doesn’t make the same mistake, packing in cameos of stars playing themselves (everyone from Ronda Rousey to Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba, Pharrell, and, because why the hell not, Warren Buffet) and splashing out on fantasy-Hollywood bling. Lesser characters are shunted off to the side. Eric’s ever-dull crises about being the one relationship guy in a quartet who would have sex with just about any woman that looked their way don’t gain much in this retelling. The less time the film spends with the onetime gofer and now wealthy tequila magnate (don’t ask) Turtle, the better; all that the script can come up with is variations on people telling him how thin he’s gotten. The series’ loud and quiet pillars of ambition, Vince and Ari, occupy much of the film’s dramatic territory. As ever, it’s talent needing the help of management. This time, Vince’s headstrong demands to run his career his way slam headlong into Ari’s need to ensure that his friend and employee’s $100 million vanity project — a laughable-looking piece of confused futuristic nonsense called Hyde which the studio’s Texan backers (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment) want to scrap — could be the bomb that destroys him.
None of it comes to much, with Ellin not even bothering to scrape up the inside-Hollywood, art-versus-commerce tensions that fueled the series’ high points in the third and fourth seasons when Vince’s dream-project Medellin turned into his Apocalypse Now. Instead, it’s left to Johnny’s embittered asides and hangdog pugnaciousness to deliver not just the film’s laugh lines but also its closest resemblance to a story or person the audience could care about. It’s not a bad impulse on Ellin’s part. As the always-scrapping actor who never gets a break, Johnny is the dark yin to Vince’s carefree and effortlessly successful yang. The fans may dream of being Vince, but they all know they’re Johnny.