Francesca Steele

Entourage review: its obsession with boobs, babes and oiled up bodies continues

Entourage review: its obsession with boobs, babes and oiled up bodies continues
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Look, could everyone please stop denigrating the Entourage movie for spurious reasons like 'it feels like an extended episode of the TV series'? Since the US release a few weeks ago, critics across the Atlantic have booed and shamed writer and director Doug Ellin’s long-awaited reunion of Vinnie Chase and co for just that. As if, instead of being a cheery summer feel-good flick for nostalgic fans, the show ought to have morphed into some erudite reflection for Entourage neophytes on how childish 20-something boys grow up into upstanding young gentlemen. Yawn. What a boring film that would have been.

What did detractors expect? A brand new cast, novel character arcs and an entirely different raison d’etre? Like most other TV hit reunions (Sex and the City, say, or Veronica Mars) Entourage, the movie, knows exactly what it is and who its fan base is – just as it should. And an extended TV episode is exactly what fans want. The boys back together again, the booze, the boobs and, of course, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), the foul-mouthed agent from hell, with that heart of gold hidden far beneath the bluster.

In fact, Ellin is sensible enough to dispatch with anything that doesn’t fall within those narrow – and yes, vaguely old-fashioned – parameters straight from the outset. Gone is the earnestness which tainted the final season four years ago. Straight off the bat, we meet the boys – chilled movie star Vinnie (Adrian Grenier), his best friend and manager Eric (Kevin Connolly), plus pal Turtle (Jerry Ferrara, looking very slim indeed) and older brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) – all single, partying on a supermodel-filled yacht in Ibiza, and spouting the same offensively sexual banter as they always have. 'Fun is when you forget a girl’s name while you’re f***ing her,' reflects the ever sage Drama. Delightful stuff.

Vinnie, seemingly unaffected by the failure of his marriage, wants to direct his next movie as well as star in it – and Ari, suffering from the delusion that running a huge Hollywood studio is way less stressful than being an agent, finds him Hyde, a contemporary take on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with bags of promise. The crew slips effortlessly back into the world that made the show so attractive to begin with:  languorous drives through L.A., incensed movie moguls making multi-million-dollar deals and stacks of celebrity cameos: Jessica Alba, Jon Favreau, Liam Neeson, Thierry Henry and, of course, Mark Wahlberg (the exec producer on whose experiences the show was originally based), just to name a few.

Almost instantly the boys go over-budget and dispatch Ari to Texas, where he must convince an oil magnate and movie financier (Billy Bob Thornton, doing his usual smooth and disinterested Billy Bob thing) and his obnoxious son (an all grown-up Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense fame) to cut him another cheque.

Meanwhile, Eric is preoccupied with the impending birth of his child with on/off girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Turtle has made a shed-load of cash in the tequila business and is busy pursuing a romance with martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey and poor old Drama still just really, really wants some recognition for his acting skills.

Admittedly the plot is jam-packed with holes, convoluted tangents and blatant sexism that does occasionally jar. Why, for instance does Ari’s wife still not even have a name after eight seasons and a movie (her character is still just credited as Mrs Ari). One main criticism levied at the film is that its obsession with boobs, babes and oiled up bodies is misogynistic and out of date. It’s true – there’s not a single female character here with any real clout. But that exact same criticism could be levied - and was - at the original show itself. The film doesn’t try to be more, and if anything picks up the pace of those earliest seasons, before lacklustre efforts to grow up  made the characters far more dull. It's silly, good-looking and ridiculous and quite clearly targeted at old fans, not new audiences.

Part parody of the superficiality of showbiz, part champion of it, Entourage has always offered an insight into the inner workings of Hollywood in a way that’s both vacuous and absurd, sometimes missing the mark but also often uproariously funny, however inappropriate the jokes. The film is just the same. The fact that it really belongs to its most indecorous characters, Ari and Drama, the two bigots everyone loves to root for, says a lot about the show’s so-wrong-it's-right appeal.