While I was watching Entourage, my mind suddenly drifted to My So-Called Life. As you’ll recall, My So-Called Life was a show that aired for one season on ABC in 1995 and it was perfect—tender, funny, clear-eyed, and observant about the way kids (and adults) navigated the complex ecosystems of school and family. Oh, what I would’ve given for a second season to find out what happened with Angela Chase, Jordan Catalano, Rayanne Graff, et al—and I certainly would’ve been thrilled with the prospect of a movie. Instead, we get the highly unnecessary Entourage, a film based on the putrescent corpse of a TV show that long overstayed its welcome.
There are three kinds of good TV shows. There’s the kind that gets cancelled too soon, like MSCL and Freaks and Geeks and Terriers. There’s the kind that somehow, improbably, manages to stay great through all seasons, like Mad Men and Breaking Bad and The Wire. And then there’s the third, most common, kind: The ones that start good, run out of ideas, get repetitive or cutesy, or double down on the melodrama, and ultimately become parodies of themselves. (Here’s a handy chart to explain it all.)
The thing you might forget about Entourage—especially in light of the bad will this film has (rightfully) generated—is that it was once kind of . . .sweet. The story of Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), a kid from Queens, bringing his wide-eyed homeboys along for the ride of celebrity, was certainly fantasy wish fulfillment, but it was about friendship and loyalty and the clash of east and west coast cultures. Grenier has always been a bit of an empty (Ed Hardy) suit but Kevin Dillon’s Johnny “Drama” Chase was genuinely funny—a horndog doofus, with an outsized bravado that masked his insecurities, along the lines of a Joey Tribbiani. We’ve seen Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold screw up his face and slam his phone against the dashboard of his car so many times it ceases to be funny, but it was once kind of novel and hilarious—TV’s foremost example of agro male rage.
But about two seasons into the show’s eight-season run, it didn’t just run out of ideas, it lost its very essence, its sense of face-pressed-against-the-glass wonder. Instead, the guys became, well, jerks—Hollywood masters of the universe, driving fast cars, partying hard, treating women like disposable sex toys. Most shows that overstay their welcome just get bad, Entourage actually got offensive.
So now, inexplicably, we have this movie. There’s not much I can say about it, except it demonstrates a staggering lack of creativity—it plays exactly like an extended episode from the later years of the show. Vince decides that he’s not being artistically fulfilled (ha!) and concludes that he wants to direct. Ari, a newly minted studio chief, recklessly green lights his project, a Matrix-style sci-fi retelling of the Jekyll and Hyde story. They go over budget. There’s a brief, fleeting concern that the film is no good. But of course it’s good—this is Entourage, where nothing bad ever happens to our golden boys. Billy Bob Thornton is on hand as a Texas billionaire backing the film and Haley Joel Osment is his spoiled rotten son, who sees an early cut of the film and dares to give “notes”. (For a show that once championed the outsider, Entourage is pretty snooty about this Texas twosome.) Kevin Connolly’s E is doing exactly what he did on the show—having sex with lots of women while technically pining away for his one true love Sloane (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who is pregnant with his child. The affable, pudgy sidekick Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is now somehow rich (and thin!) and spends much of the film pursuing MMA star Ronda Rousey. There are celebrity cameos galore, including lots of athletes (Russell Wilson; Rob Gronkowski) and a few B and C-list celebs (Liam Neeson is the biggest catch; Bob Saget is there, too.) There’s a general sense that the people in the film are having a great time—the set must have, at times, felt like a giant party. And if watching entitled assholes having the time of their lives while pulling a fast one on the filmgoing public is your idea of a good time, you’ll love Entourage, too!