Entourage review - 'limp spin off of a once-great TV show lacks conviction'
Entourage (15A, 104mins), 2 stars
When Mark Wahlberg, or 'Marky Mark' to give him his cutesy boyband name, first arrived in Hollywood in the 1990s, legend has it that his older brother Donnie hired a cousin to watch over him and keep him out of trouble. Wahlberg tended to travel with a colourful escort of old friends from Boston, and out of their adventures grew the concept for Entourage.
Launched by HBO in 2004, the show mixed broad comedy and drama pretty successfully, and mercilessly lampooned Hollywood's materialistic excesses while simultaneously seeming to celebrate them.
Star of the show, of course, was hysterical agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), and for a time Entourage seemed fresh and irreverent - a welcome antidote to the usual sitcom sterility. But by the time the series limped to an end in 2011, a nice idea had been flogged to death and that, one thought, was that.
Which makes it all the more odd that this movie spin-off should arrive now, four years after the TV show's end and a good decade since its heyday. The series creator, Doug Ellin, seems to have had something left to say: it's he who writes and directs Entourage the movie, which is co-produced by Mark Wahlberg, who makes an inevitable cameo.
The story opens six months after the end of the TV show, as a now divorced Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) is looking to do something new with his life, and his career.
When Vince decides to contact his former agent Ari Gold, he agrees to star in a forthcoming big budget sci-fi action thriller called Hyde, with one condition - he wants to direct it. Against his better judgement, Ari agrees, but eight months later begins to wonder why Vince is so reluctant to show him the rough cut. Vince even throws a party to show the film to an invited audience, then gets the jitters and refuses to screen it.
Fearing that the whole thing is an unwatchable mess, Ari is delighted to discover that Hyde is a wonderful movie, so good in fact that even Vince's hack actor brother Johnny 'Drama' Chase (Kevin Dillon) has emerged from it with credit.
But there's a problem: one of the film's principal backers, a smooth-talking Texan billionaire called Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton) has sent his idiot son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) to Hollywood as his emissary.
When Travis gets annoyed with Vince for having wooed a girl he was interested in, he takes against Hyde and does his best to make sure the studio drops it. And meanwhile Vince, Drama, Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) wrestle ineffectually with their usual personal and professional crises.
Jeremy Piven was always the glue that held Entourage together, and in this movie he's given an awful lot to do. A running joke involves his doomed attempts to keep his temper while battling duplicitous studio bosses and attending marriage therapy: but while Piven is as good as ever, a flat script often lets him down. Kevin Connolly's idiotic clowning as Drama seems a bit tired at this stage, Eric and Turtle are interchangeably irrelevant as characters, and Vince Chase seems even more vacuous here than he did in the TV show.
Most problematically of all, Entourage the movie may have set out to satirise the modern Sodom, but ends up exulting in the wine, women and salads its characters are still steeped in, and a late plug for family values seems half-hearted - even disingenuous.
Everyone from Jessica Alba and Liam Neeson to Jon Favreau, Arnie Hammer, Kelsey Grammer, Piers Morgan, Richard Schiff, Thierry Henry (boo!) and Pharrell Williams turn up in mildly amusing cameos, but none of this can alter the fact that Entourage feels like a toothless and redundant offshoot from a TV show that ran for several seasons too long.