The premiere of “Entourage” on HBO in the summer of 2004 arrived just a few months after my own arrival in Hollywood. My goals were much less ambitious than Vinnie and the gang, and I wouldn’t even achieve those, but the timing was perfect. “Entourage” was part teacher, part wish-fulfillment, and completely free of the cynicism that wraps itself around almost every big and small screen depiction of Tinseltown.
That was the genius of Doug Ellin’s creation (based in large part on the real Hollywood life of executive producer Mark Wahlberg). Instead of depicting Sunset Boulevard as “Sunset Boulevard,” “Entourage” portrayed Hollywood as a magical place where dreams really do come true — a hedonistic fantasyland full of cool bros, impossibly hot chicks, consequence-free sex, mansions, swag bags, insane parties, unlimited weed, cool cars, success and fame.
While that is the exact-opposite of my own idea of paradise, watching the dreams of likable consenting adults come true can still be entertaining.
And sure, there was conflict and setbacks and failures for Vinnie and the boys, but that was all part of the joyous ride. “Entourage” told us that even the worst of times in Hollywood are better than the best of times anywhere else.
For about three seasons “Entourage” was a must-see, and not just because of its important place in the culture I was living and working in. Although it was all spun on an axis of whimsy, “Entourage” did a pretty good job of explaining how the insanely difficult film business actually worked.
The show was admittedly shallow and celebrated narcissism. Pleasure-seeking was equated to happiness. Nevertheless, “Entourage” was fun, like taking a drug without fear of a downside … until it ran out of steam.
Sure, the characters went through things, and along the way, the gang — Vince (Adrian Grenier), Eric (Kevin Connolly), “Drama” (Kevin Dillon), and “Turtle” (Jerry Ferrara) — became more successful and business savvy (well, maybe not Drama). That is not the same, though, as growing.
The series became repetitive. Watching Vinnie and his crew from Queens enter their thirties, work at the top echelon of the film (and liquor) business, and still act as though they are Dorothy entering Oz, got old. Still single. Still bros. Still drugging. Still skirt-chasing. It’s no sin Ellin didn’t want to mess with a formula that created a water cooler show. That doesn’t change the fact that after a few seasons the formula played itself out.
Which at long last brings me to the “Entourage” movie.
Other than the screen being wider, there is absolutely nothing new here. The 100 minute runtime plays like a shortened, four episode 9th season binge, and not a very good one. The guys are where they have always been: single, partying, making movies, loving life, chasing chicks, smoking weed. Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) is now the head of a studio. Lloyd, Ari’s former assistant, is a full-fledged agent and wants Ari to give him away at his gay-marriage.
The plot is pure “Entourage”: Vinnie wants to direct his next big movie. Ari hand him the $100 million required to do so. It’s a franchise picture called “Hyde,” an updating of “Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde,” that goes way over-budget. This makes the primary investors nervous, who proceed to interfere in an art the two Texans (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment) know nothing about.
The girls are pretty (and mostly naked), cameos abound. There are a few laughs, though fewer in 100 minutes than a typical 25 minute episode.
If you are dying to see what’s happened to these characters since the series ended its run 4 years ago, there is no reason to the see the movie, because nothing has. If you are dying to see where the characters end up, they don’t end up anywhere.
“Entourage” the movie is a feature-length version of the original sitcom, and that’s obviously intentional. Plenty of the show’s fans will appreciate that, which is perfectly understandable. If you want to pay $10 to see an uninspired season nine on the bigscreen, it is a free country.
If you’re not an “Entourage” fan, beware. It’s not that it’s impossible for a television series to create a cinematic experience.
The first “X-Files” movie did so, as did most of the “Star Trek” movies.
“Entourage” doesn’t even want to try.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC