Lukewarm Takes #8: Entourage (2016)
I am embarrassed to admit this, but at one point I was very solidly an Entourage fan. The widely derided HBO hit about four bros broing it up in the bro Utopia of Hollywood was appointment viewing for me for at least a few seasons. I even vaguely remember caring about its characters and being impressed by the chemistry of the titular entourage, in addition to the scene-stealing, career-making performance of Jeremy Piven as loudmouth agent Ari Gold.
I have a weakness for movies and television shows about show-business. What I initially responded to in Entourage was its lightness of touch and its refusal to judge or punish its characters. This was not one of those Hollywood morality tales where someone smokes their first doobie and is sucking off businessmen for crack money in a matter of hours. No, this was a breezy exercise in male lifestyle porn about a couple of ordinary guys enjoying an extraordinary life in the stoned paradise of Southern California. I enjoyed it for what it was, something so flimsy and insubstantial that it almost took more energy to not watch it than to keep up.
I liked that Entourage initially depicted life in Hollywood as ridiculous but also kind of awesome. That was my experience shooting a poorly rated, mildly disreputable movie review panel show in L.A in 2004 and 2005. But then, at a certain point, the show stopped being about how show-biz is ridiculous yet awesome and just became about how everything was awesome. And the more awesome the show insisted everything was, the more obnoxious it became.
I eventually realized that I did not like any of the show's characters and that I could not be less invested in its dizzy, fizzy, incredibly plastic and artificial world. It’s one thing to not punish characters with STDs and drug addictions for sleeping around or getting high. It’s another to endlessly reward one-dimensional characters with all of heaven’s wonders simply for having a penis, being white and hanging around with an improbably, implausibly successful actor.
By the time the Entourage movie was announced, it had become something to hate-watch rather than enjoy. This was only reinforced when I watched the requisite promo for Entourage DVDs on the Entourage movie DVD and, without thinking, said out loud, “Hard pass!” as if someone was going to burst into my home and try to sell me a second season Entourage box set.
The Entourage movie wastes no time reminding me why my affection for the show gradually but unmistakably morphed into hatred. The movie never stops justifying its detractors' criticism of it as empty and vacuous, stunningly idiotic and mind-numbingly superficial. It opens in Ibiza (of course), with the titular entourage speeding to a yacht where a bunch of bikini-clad supermodels drink champagne and lounge about decoratively.
As the prophecy foretold, The Entourage movie's first line of dialogue is Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) talking about how he might have to jerk it before even getting to his brother’s floating pleasure palace because he’s so horny. That seems fitting, since what follows is a masturbatory exercise in self-mythologizing, fan service and taking a wholly unmerited, film-length victory lap.
We learn that movie star Vinnie Chase (Adrien Grenier) and his new wife split up on their honeymoon but don’t worry! Nothing bad ever really happens to Vinnie, so he still got laid (high five!) and there are all these supermodels around who totally want to bang him. If anything, he has too many beautiful women around constantly begging him to put his penis inside them, including Emily Ratajkowski.
Ratajkowski rose to fame as the notorious “video girl” in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” She proved she could act with Gone Girl, then proved she could also not act with her work here. Vinnie isn’t the only member of the squad who just can’t seem to keep beautiful women from having sex with him. That also seems to be a distressing conundrum for Vinnie’s manager E (Kevin Connolly) as well.
Would it kill the supermodels and actresses of the world to lay off the Entourage dudes for even a minute? They’re only human, and even that’s a stretch. They aren’t multi-cocked fuck-beasts like you seem to imagine, so there’s only so much of their sexual energy to go-around.
Like Sex And The City 2, Entourage: the Movie should be used as a propaganda training film for ISIS. Having just watched it, I find myself suddenly disgusted with the materialistic excesses of the shallow, materialist imperialist western dogs and their decadent lifestyle. I’m also filled with a curious, bracingly intense desire to engage in what I hear is referred to as “Jihad.”
On HBO, Entourage was Sex and the City for bros. Like Sex and the City 2, Entourage: The Movie sets out to subconsciously punish its audience, and punish them hard, both for enjoying the vacant, lifestyle-porn television shows that inspired them and for living in the kind of awful, superficial world that makes things like Sex and the City 2 and the movie version of Entourage not only possible but inevitable.
Honestly, if you were to write a mean-spirited parody of Entourage cruelly deconstructing its laziness, knee-jerk sexism and mindless, clumsy star-fucking it would look and feel like the actual movie itself. The Entourage movie plays like an unintentionally damning spoof of the television show the internet loves to hate, and during its endless pay-cable run Entourage was already immersed in perpetual self-parody.
As played by vacant human mannequin Adrien Grenier, the show’s main character, Vinnie Chase, barely seems capable of walking upright and breathing at the same time. There’s an emptiness behind the eyes, an all-consuming vacantness. Yet Entourage: The Movie laughingly asks us to believe that this pretty, vacant maroon would be capable of starring in, and directing Hyde, an edgy masterpiece and Oscar favorite that, from the brief glimpse we see here, is apparently a 140 minute, 100 million dollar Apple commercial from 1986 in movie form that people lose their shit over.
In Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, narcissistic protagonist Conner4Real keeps someone in his entourage who’s a little shorter than him to serve as his “Perspective Manipulator.” The Perspective Manipulator is a dude whose sole job is to be in the frame with Conner4Real in pictures to make the pop superstar look slightly taller by comparison. The Entourage movie has its own set of perspective manipulators, designed to make it, and its characters seem less terrible by comparison.
To make Vinnie seem less like a beautiful man with a bag of rocks in his head, it surrounds him with brother Johnny Drama, who Kevin Dillon plays not as an unusually stupid, gullible and clownish human being, but rather as an unusually stupid, gullible and clownish lower primate who’s been doing a sub-par impersonation of a human being for decades. Vinnie is dumb, but Drama is so much dumber he makes Vinnie seem almost mentally adequate by comparison. Johnny Drama not just dumb for an actor. He’s dumb for a mammal.
Suffering through the Entourage motion picture (if you’ve been dreaming about the day you’d see the credit, “A Doug Ellin film” your wishes have been answered!) I found myself wishing they’d put out a “Party” edition where a cartoon caricature of Johnny Drama would race across the screen and shout “420, Bro!” or “Check out them big old titties!” with accompanying wacky sound effects during scenes of marijuana consumption and bikini-wearing. Honestly, adding something like that to the Blu-Ray could only add to the integrity and dignity of the project.
On HBO, Entourage was of course free to include lots of swearing and naked titties, but since this is a major motion picture, the naked titties on display in the movie are substantially more naked than the naked titties found on the television program. It’s not even close!
On a similar note, the Entourage franchise is notorious for having incredibly stupid, brotastic fans who worship its incredibly stupid, brotastic foursome and live vicariously through their lives of bongs, babes, beer and endless partying with absolutely no negative consequences ever. I’m a proud Juggalo and even I look down on people who love Entourage. And I used to be one!
Entourage and its characters are as dumb as the day is long, so the movie has poor Haley Joel Osment play Travis McCredle, the dumbass son of a redneck millionaire powerbroker played by Billy Bob Thornton and, remarkably, a character every Entourage fan can look down on as their intellectual and cultural inferior.
Of course you’d have to be pretty goddamned stupid and gross and crude to make the Entourage guys look mature and dignified by comparison so Osment and the movie really lay the country-fried goober routine on thick. Osment stops just short of wearing filthy over-alls, rocking a giant Confederate flag belt buckle with him name on it, and toting around a moonshine bottle at all times to broadcast his hickishness.
Travis is such an infidel that he is unable to understand the complexity and brilliance of Vinnie’s masterpiece, a mind-fuck with sick visuals and even sicker beats about a DJ who’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the future on acid, only with attitude! And extreme! From what little we see of the film, it looks like a ridiculous parody of a pretentious art movie. Yet we are angrily discouraged from judging the film-within-a-film’s quality for ourselves and encouraged to believe Ari when he describes it as transcendent.
When Travis complains about the performances of Vinnie and his brother, we’re supposed to be apoplectic that this no-nothing rube from the flyover states dare question the artistry and intellect of Vinnie Chase, the talent of Johnny Drama, the sound judgment of Vinnie’s manager E and the decision-making of Ari Gold. Instead, I found myself agreeing with Osment’s character that there’s no way an “edgy”, EDM-fueled dystopian Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde update about a rebel DJ starring and directed by Vinnie Chase and lasting 140 minutes could be anything other than an epic boondoggle, a film of almost unimaginable awfulness.
Ah, but it turn out, the bad guy doesn’t actually hate Vinnie’s movie (how could he? This is Vinnie Chase we’re talking about here) he’s just jealous that his hero Vinnie totally scored with this hot girl he wanted to have sex with. There’s a weird element of sour, self-pitying meta-commentary in that development, like Osment’s character represents all the online Entourage haters who pretend to think it’s terrible (because, objectively speaking, it is terrible) but really are just jealous because they wish they were living the high life along the show’s fabulously un-charismatic foursome.
Technically speaking, things happen in Entourage: the Movie, just as I very fuzzily remember things happening in the television show. At the same time, it feels like nothing is happening at all. There are theoretically stakes here, and reasons for the audience to feel emotionally invested beyond having followed the perversely inconsequential non-adventures of these chuckleheads on the TV screen for so long.
Though the bros of Entourage are risking it all on a dream, there is a zero percent chance that that dream won’t be realized to a ridiculously hyperbolic extent, although, to be fair, the movie does not end with walking punchline Johnny Drama (who stands out as particularly dumb in a show-business realm where the average I.Q just barely tops that of the future-world of Idiocracy) winning the Academy Award or anything. That would be silly and unrealistic. No, it ends with him winning the Golden Globe. After all, you wouldn’t want to mess with the verisimilitude that has long been the show’s hallmark.
When the Entourage bros walk outside, it rains ice cream, hundred dollar bills and blow-jobs from supermodels. If Vinnie Chase were to contract a seemingly fatal disease in Entourage, in the next scene he’d reveal that doctors looked at the X-ray again, and it turns out that actually he has a condition that increases his penis size, allows him to fly and grants him immortality. I did not waste a second of thought worrying about whether things would work out okay for the guys.
The outcomes of Harlem Globetrotters games are harder to predict than the path Entourage will travel to Bro-vana. Indeed, Vinnie, E, Turtle and Johnny Drama are like the Harlem Globetrotters of getting laid constantly, sparking doobies and partying like rock stars despite being uncharismatic lumps.
Ah, but I did allude earlier to the film having a plot, so here it is: Ari risks his power and status a a rebel studio head and lays it all on the line out of his unshakable belief in the Kubrick-like artistry and potential of Vinnie fucking Chase. The hick from Texas tries to get Johnny to compromise his creative vision by editing his brother out of the movie but Vinnie is all, “I am an artist, bro” and then Ari is like, “Vinnie is an artist, bro”, and Johnny Drama is all, “My bro Vinnie is an artist, bro” and the movie is all, “Vinnie is an artist, bro.”
Oh, and Turtle, the low-energy, low-wattage flunky who spent most of the show getting baked out of his gourd and/or worrying that he’s not turtley enough for something called “The Turtle Club”, is now richer than God and also has MMA superstar Ronda Rousey pursuing him romantically, because that is totally something that could conceivably happen in this universe or any other.
Playing a fairly major supporting role in Entourage: The Movie as Turtle’s potential love and business interest somehow makes mixed martial arts superstar Ronda Rousey less of an actress than she was before. Oh sure, Rousey has some screen time, but what she’s doing onscreen ain’t exactly what I’d call acting.
Rousey doesn’t just fail to convince us that she’s both a superstar fighter and sexually attracted to a man who looks like Turtle: she also fails to convince us that she's a human being. It’s as if all of the celebrities who contribute cameos as themselves (I could list them, but that would be a waste of my time and yours, and I’m writing that as someone at the end of a 2500 word essay about the fucking Entourage movie) are actually super-sophisticated robot clones that look exactly like what they’re replacing but are unable to communicate any manner of emotion and speak in stilted, clumsy, uniformly robotic inflections. You know, like the athletes in Arli$$.
Then I realized that maybe I was looking at things the wrong way. Entourage obviously is not about human beings or reality. Maybe I should start looking at it as a secret science fiction show about an alternate universe that sort of looks like ours only it’s a computer simulation where every time anyone has a problem it is immediately resolved in the most spectacular way. For example, if the “E” or “Vinnie” character in this world is hungry, the world’s greatest chef will immediately pay him, and pay him handsomely, to work as his private taster, just as in the Entourage movie, when Vinnie needs to distract people, hey, how convenient, Pharrell is around to perform an impromptu show!
The Entourage movie makes so much more sense as a fantasy than as anything even vaguely approximating reality, but computer simulations, alternate world or not, I’m pretty sure I never need to see any of these characters, ever again, regardless of the medium.
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