People think Entourage sucks because the characters are LA douchebags, but that’s wrong. You could make a fantastic show about LA douchebags. Swingers was about LA douchebags, and it was great. The promise of a show set in the world of LA douchebags produced by a guy (Mark Wahlberg) who’d lived among them since his teens was the only reason I ever watched Entourage in the first place. I lasted one or two seasons, long enough to realize that Entourage didn’t actually have anything to say about LA douchebags, and in fact felt like it was written by a guy in Iowa daydreaming about how awesome it must be to be an LA douchebag.
Entourage doesn’t suck because it’s about LA douchebags, it sucks because it doesn’t have the balls to let its characters be douchebags. It’s a vehicle for viewers vicariously acting out their douche fantasies while the characters themselves just shrug and pretend to be nice, practically begging an invisible focus group somewhere to say they have heart. No agency, no culpability. They didn’t land on douche rock, douche rock landed on them!
OH MY GOD, E, DID YOU JUST BANG TWO SETS OF SIAMESE CIRCUS TWINS ON JOSH GAD’S JETSKI? HOW DO YOU DO IT?
(*shrug*) Dunno, bro. Sh*t was crazy.
You know how Bella Swan in Twilight is just this barely written empty shell into which adolescent girls can inject themselves to experience sparkly vampire love and ethnic werewolf temptation? Vinny Chase is like that, a hollow vessel in a 90s George Clooney wig who bangs porn stars and hangs out with celebrities. E and Turtle are the hollow vessel friends who get to watch him do it. Reading a good script, the characters develop separate personalities without being described physically, and even before you’ve associated actors with them. That’s called “characterization.” By contrast, Entourage which might as well star three mannequins wearing different hats. People make fun of Johnny Drama for being a cartoon character, which he is, but at least he’s something. The other three aren’t even there. If Entourage was Seinfeld, there’d be a Kramer, but no Jerry, George, or Elaine. There’d be a poor man’s Kramer and three Kevin Connollys.
The less analytical version of those last five or six paragraphs, by the way, is “Entourage isn’t funny.” Not offensive, not morally bankrupt, not the death knell of western civilization, just sort of hacky and lame. Ironically, it probably wouldn’t get bashed for being boorish so much if it had any balls. I think I sort of chuckled twice, once at something Johnny Drama did and once at T.I., who displays more personality in a two-second cameo than Adrien Connolly, Kevin Grenier, and Seth Ferrara do the entire rest of the movie. (Those are their names, right? I’m not looking it up). The jokes have to be overly broad because the characters aren’t actually characters.
Here’s the plot, and maybe grab yourself a diaper before you read this because you might sh*t yourself when you hear about these high stakes: Ari, now a studio head, gave Vince $100 million to direct his first movie, which we’re told is great, but one of the financiers (a Texan played by Haley Joel Osment), wants to cut Johnny Drama out of the movie because he’s jealous that Vince is banging Emily Ratajkowski (don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it). Turtle, who’s a billionaire now (don’t ask) could solve this entire problem simply by putting up a few million of his own, and offers to, but Vince tells him, “I’d never ask you to do that, bro.”
That’s it. That’s the entire conflict. And you know what? That would be fine under different circumstances. That these characters inhabit a world so low-stakes that their biggest worry is which rich guy’s millions they’re going to blow is one of the only honest parts of Entourage. But the central hallmark of Entourage is that it never satirizes, comments on, or utilizes the world in which it exists for comedy in any way. It’s a show about a group of dudes that feels like it was written by an alien who learned about dudes from back issues of Esquire.
Having been produced by a guy who was actually the leader of a Hollywood entourage, you’d think that Entourage might have some good dirt, some wild anecdotes, a cutting observation or three, in the tradition of a great Hollywood memoir. Instead, the only observation it ever makes is basically, “Bro this one time my buddy Dave banged a chick and it was crazy.” Was it? Was it that crazy? The fact that you think getting laid makes for such a wild story makes me question how much you’ve actually been laid.
Watching Entourage is like having a friend who’s lived a crazy life but is too dumb and inarticulate to tell you about it. You’ll try to ask him about it at first, but after a few months of nothing but shrugs and “dunno, bro, it was crazy” you eventually stop bothering.
I might actually watch Entourage if it was the Ari Gold show. Ari is the only Entourage character with a personality and depth, who doesn’t feel like a semi-autobiographical version of someone, lionized and scrubbed clean of identifiers, whose dialogue doesn’t sound like an issue of Maxim from 2008 came to life and started asking you if its shoes matched. He’s a character with multiple problems and when he solves them, could be said to do it in an “Ari Gold-esque” way. You actually get a sense of him as a person, this vulgar, boorish sweet-talker who’s good at his job, most of which consists of talking people into things. Vinny Chase, by contrast, is supposedly this singularly magnetic movie star. At one point, Ari says “That’s what movie stars are supposed to do! They’re supposed to walk into a party for two seconds and steal your girlfriend, because they’re a movie star and you’re just a civilian!” Yet whenever we see Vinny, he has all the charisma of a ham sandwich. It doesn’t matter how many random tits and celebrity cameos you add in if the entire plot revolves around a bowl of oatmeal with eyebrows.
Incidentally, the Entourage movie has lots of tits and random celeb cameos, including like six shots of Mark Cuban (both a tit and a celebrity) doing that classic, beatific Mark Cuban face.
If Seinfeld‘s famous rule was “no hugging, no learning,” Entourage‘s is “all hugging, no joking.” I’ve never seen a supposed comedy show so unwilling to make fun of itself. It has to hire 10 football stars and 15 rappers just so someone there can actually do something funny instead of just whining about which teenybopper they’re banging and begging you to commiserate.
Watch the trailer – notice how there aren’t any jokes in it, only amped up drama and lifestyle porn? That’s the draw of the show. Not interesting characters, just cool cars you could imagine yourself driving, sluts you could imagine yourself banging (ooh, this slut has faux wood paneling!). They try to end each episode with a bro hugged and a lesson learned (and the fact that episodes always seem to end with the gang in triumph on a red carpet somewhere is a dead giveaway that the draw is wish fulfillment, not comedy), only you don’t know what they actually learned or why they even like each other. In a classic Entourage pump up speech that Vinny Chase gives to his bros next to a pool (always next to a f*cking pool), he says, “You know why? Because we do the things we love, not the things people with money tell us to!”
Really? Because by my count, you did one random bikini bimbo on a yacht, one porny broad in a hot tub, one random young lady on molly in Turtle’s bedroom during a party, and Emily Ratajkowski. Which we never actually get to see, by the way. F*ck you.
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.
Random Screening Note: I walked into a 9:45 showing of Entourage on Tuesday (packed, btw) at 9:38, and looked up to see Kevin Dillon on the screen, drinking Johnny Walker in the back of a Cadillac. “What the hell?” I thought to myself, “Did they start the movie early?” I had to walk back out and check the marquee to make sure I was in the right place. I was. Turns out, it was only a Johnny Walker ad starring Johnny Drama playing before the previews before the Johnny Drama movie. Perfect.