It took fans of HBO’s “Sex and the City” two feature follow-ups to the series to realize that their residual affection for the program might have been misplaced. Perhaps this single film will be enough to convince those who regretted the cancellation of “Entourage” that it deserved to disappear and shouldn’t have been resuscitated.
Or maybe not. The simple revival of a program nostalgically remembered may well be enough for die-hard devotees. And from the observations of those who knew the series well, it appears that the picture does absolutely nothing new, merely repeating the show’s formula endlessly to reach feature length. So if that’s enough for you, go for it. But many might think it a pity that creator and writer-director Doug Ellin didn’t take the opportunity to attempt something a little different or expand on what premium cable offered for eight seasons. Instead his picture is just loud, boorish frat-boy wish-fulfillment stuff, festooned with wink-wink celebrity cameos, when it could have been the stinging Hollywood satire the business deserves.
The picture’s set-up is that manic agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) has come out of a brief retirement to head a troubled studio, and as his first big decision has not only inked his erstwhile star client Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) to star in a hundred-million dollar modernization of the Jekyll and Hyde story, but also given in to Vince’s request to direct the movie. Now, however, the picture has gone repeatedly over budget, and Vince still needs more money to polish it. That forces Ari, who hasn’t seen a frame yet, to approach their outside investor, Texas entrepreneur Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton), for another infusion of cash. McCredle, a grim, menacing type, sends his inept but aggressive son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) to California to see the current cut of the movie before committing himself—and the kid’s clueless insistence on major edits threatens to derail the entire project.
All this is set against the private lives of the major characters, whose relationships are recapitulated in summary form through a TMZ-style Piers Morgan TV feature on “Hyde” at the movie’s beginning. Ari is trying to balance his studio work with his marriage to Melissa (Perrey Reeves). Having ended his marriage after a mere nine days, Vince takes up with model-turned actress Emily Ratajkowski. Childhood friend turned driver, but now rich tequila magnate Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) pursues martial-arts fighter Ronda Rousey. Eric (Kevin Connolly), the former pizza guy who’s now Vince’s manager (and “Hyde” producer), is acting the part of good-father-to-be with his pregnant former girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) while juggling time in the sack with a couple of other nubile babes. And Vince’s ever-raunchy doofus half-brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon), aka “Drama,” is still trying to jump-start his moribund acting career, which includes the proverbial “small but pivotal” role Vince has given him in “Hyde.”
It’s impossible to care about any of these personal matters (calling any of them “romances” would be giving them entirely too much credit). But one of them turns out—rather incredibly—to be central to the whole brouhaha over redoing “Hyde” (which, if done, would cut Johnny from the film). And after all the supposedly edgy bits of business about Hollywood’s preening nastiness (no fewer than thirty people show up for cameos, many of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them variety, though a few—Gary Busey, Liam Neeson, producer Mark Wahlberg, Armie Hammer—run longer) the picture ends sappily. Not so much because of the final revelations about “Hyde” (which on the basis of the clip we finally see, looks utterly atrocious but goes on to become a smash at the boxoffice and the Golden Globes)—which is certainly intended as a rude send-up of Hollywood cliché—but because of that most sloppily saccharine of climactic devices, the birth of a child that brings everyone together. That, unfortunately, appears to be seriously meant.
There are a few saving elements to the picture. Piven’s over-the-top performance as Gold remains the best reason for “Entourage” to exist at all, and the script gives him plenty of opportunities to rant, though the conversations between him and ex-assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee) are obvious add-ons that don’t bring much beyond mild homophobia. Thornton gets the chance to offer some dark notes reminiscent of his turn in the “Fargo” TV mini-series. And Osment, of all people, invests some smarmy energy in the proceedings as a blundering guy everybody looks down on who decides to get even.
Or perhaps Thornton and Osment stand out simply because they’re new. The four bros—Grenier, Connolly, Ferrara and Dillon—come across as a mite tired, though Dillon differs from the other three in being a tad repulsive, too. The women don’t get much to do, though Rousey has a chance to show off her physical prowess in a silly cage match with Ferrara. Lee overdoes the swish, playing at a level more suited to the small screen than a large one.
That’s true of the technical aspects of the picture as well; it will probably look better when shown a few months hence on the series’ old home HBO than it does in the theatre, where the garishness is oppressive (Chase Harlan was production designer and Steven Fierberg the cinematographer) and the background music blares horribly (Scott Vener was the supervisor). (The small screen will also reduce the unrealistic look of the supposedly Texan scenes, which go so far as to include a close-up of a rattlesnake for the sake of “authenticity.”) Jeff Groth’s editing can’t hide the lumpy, episodic nature of the narrative, which stumbles along as it shifts from one plot thread to another and, despite all the visual pizzazz, lacks energy.
One expects that among recently resurrected TV programs “Entourage” will wind up resembling “Veronica Mars” more than “Sex and the City” in terms of audience response. At least one shouldn’t expect “Entourage 2.”