The opening scene of the film continuance of the HBO show Entourage had me immediately hooked: On a boat in beatific Ibiza, Spain, scantily clad and occasionally topless women drink and flirt with the few guys on board. And by "flirt" I mean "throw themselves at" in a shameless, Girls Gone Wild exercise in debauchery and exuberance. The main character, Vince, tells a stunning bikini model that his marriage ended nine days ago so he "needs a couple hours" before hooking up. Ah yes, this is the life.
Behind this hedonistic façade, however, are problems. Vince (Adrian Grenier) is a star actor who insisted on making his directorial debut with a modern adaptation of Hyde (as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. ...), but the film is behind schedule and over budget, which stresses out his former agent and current studio head/boss Ari (Jeremy Piven). Because they need money to finish the movie, Ari travels to Texas to ask a billionaire investor (Billy Bob Thornton) for the funds, with the end result being the investor's son Travis (Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense) going to L.A. for a first-hand look at the project.
The rest of Vince's entourage has issues as well: Manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) still has feelings for pregnant ex-girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), but can't stop sleeping with other women. Driver Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) has a crush on MMA fighter Ronda Rousey (who plays herself) but can't win her over, and Vince's brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon) is a struggling actor who gets involved with the wrong woman.
You know that feeling when you're around old friends reuniting, but you're not one of the old friends so you don't understand the inside jokes? That's what Entourage feels like for those who didn't watch the TV show (like me). And so it's from an uninitiated perspective that I can say Entourage the movie is an amusing showbiz lark with some good laughs, ample sex and nudity, mediocre drama and numerous cameos (Liam Neeson, Piers Morgan, Tom Brady, Pharrell, Jessica Alba, etc.).
To its credit, episodes of the show were about a half hour, and at no point does creator/writer/director Doug Ellin's 103-minute film feel like an extended TV episode. Appropriately, each of the main characters has his own story arc, and the sanctity of their friendship always shines through when needed. In this sense we find the film's bigger appeal: These are four guys who've known one another a long time and are loyal to a fault. This care — or bromance, man love, whatever you want to call it — manifests mostly in insults and practical jokes, but is omnipresent when it matters. It's quite sweet, really.
It's well documented that the characters are loosely based on the life and cohorts of Mark Wahlberg, who cameos and serves as a producer here. How much is true to Wahlberg's life is irrelevant; what's more interesting is the irony that Vince is the least interesting character. Grenier is attractive, but his performance is flat and rarely exudes movie star charisma, which is weak given that he's playing a movie star. His entourage, on the other hand, quip one-liners and express a wider array of emotions, and therefore are more compelling to watch.
Having seen the movie, I will not watch the TV show. It aired on HBO for eight seasons ending in 2011. Granted, there may be more to it, but here's the key: There's nothing in the movie that inspires me to say, "I'm curious to see how that came to be," so I don't think I've missed much. Regardless, the movie on its own terms is a fun trip into Hollywood absurdity, and I presume fans of the show will enjoy it more than I did.