Review: ‘Entourage’ is a big-budget riff on the low-stakes original

There have been a few reviews lately where people have gotten hung up on the letter grades on these reviews, and it seems like this is a good review to begin with a reminder of how the letter grades work. If you want to know how I felt about a film, you read the review. I'll tell you about my own personal reactions, and I'll tell you if I enjoyed things. And I'll work hard to try to set a film in some sort of context if I think that's required.

The letter grade, though, is more about a general sense of how well I feel like a film accomplished the goals of the filmmakers. I may not like those goals, but if I think the filmmaker did what they were trying to do, then I'll give a solid letter grade. There are plenty of films I don't especially like that I can acknowledge will play to some audience even if they don't play to me.

“Entourage” is one of those films.

My biggest ongoing issues with “Entourage” as a series are probably not unlike the issues doctors must have when watching shows about hospitals. The portrait that “Entourage” paints of the film industry is not one that I find particularly authentic or compelling. I've worked for studios. I've worked for indie companies. I've sat in the offices of studio heads and I've pissed off powerful people. I know the world of this film, and I don't believe their version.

I'm sure that means absolutely nothing to Doug Ellin, though. He's not trying to present a completely realistic version of the industry because, frankly, that would be boring. Instead, he's selling a particular version of a particular fantasy, and if you love the idea of a world where best friends get everything they want and there are never any consequences, then Ellin has prepared the slickest version of that fantasy so far.

They've basically taken what would have been a full season's worth of story and condensed it to two hours. The degree to which this works should serve as an indictment of the show, since it feels like we get a full season's worth of story here. Basically, Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) got married and it lasted less than two weeks. He calls his friends Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Drama (Kevin Dillon), and they join him in Ibiza to try to drown his sorrows. They inform him that Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), Vince's former agent, is back at work running a studio, and he wants to offer Vince a giant movie to star in. Vince announces that whatever he stars in next, he also wants to direct, and the film's one dilemma is set in motion.

As with the show, Piven is still the performing MVP here, and the film finds Ari struggling to keep himself from giving back in to the anger that is so much a part of his chemical make-up even as he has to protect his first major production and his own job. The biggest dramatic problem I have with the film is just how much weight they place on one film that sounds lie it costs somewhere around $100 million. Yes, that's a lot of money, but no, that's not going to be make or break for any studio head. Not as their first film.

The way an “Entourage” story works is that they establish what it is that Vinnie and his friends want, they challenge them a little bit, and then they get what they want. And while that's something I find unsatisfying, it is the exact reason that fans watch the show and it's why they'll watch the film. They don't want struggle. They want success. They want a contact high that comes from being close to this kind of decadence, delivered without pain. It's hard to get too worked up about the success or failure of Vince when it all hinges on a misunderstanding after he has sex with Emily Ratajkowski, who appears as herself. Gee, i hope the casual sexual relationship with the preposterously hot model doesn't ruin Vince's chances at even more money and fame. That would be terrible.

See? I try to simply describe the plot of the film, and I get sarcastic and crappy about it. There are things that made me laugh. Piven gets off some good shots, and Ferrara remains the most affable of the guys, carefully protecting his weight loss secret while desperately trying to win the attention of Ronda Rousey. How much you like watching Drama get kicked around will determine how much you enjoy his storyline, but this being the movie, don't expect anyone to take too much abuse. Haley Joel Osment plays a particularly unlikeable new character, the son of the billionaire financing partner (Billy Bob Thornton) who has to sign off if the studio's going to spend any more movie on Vince's movie, which is already overbudget as the film begins.

There are lots and lots of cameos, with Mark Wahlberg landing probably the biggest of the guest laughs. There's a clever riff on the show's opening title sequence. Steven Fierberg, who shot many episodes of the series, has managed to make this the bigger clicker version of what they did on TV. It's a very polished package, and fans are going to feel well-served by what Ellin and his team have put together. I don't think the film's going to win anyone over who wasn't already onboard. If anything, the female characters are even more poorly served here than normal, and if you're not already invested in the characters, the film would never make the case for why we should be paying attention to them or their problems. But I don't think those things will matter to the audience that is already eager to see this, and they should walk away once more satisfied with their dip into a life of absurd ease and luxury.

“Entourage” opens in theaters everywhere on Friday.