For fan-bros of HBO's long-running dramedy, the Entourage movie is a chance to touch base and reconnect with such favourites as: Vince, E, Johnny Drama, Ari, Diet Coke, Budweiser, Mentos, Uber, Budweiser Crown, Ferrari, Sbarro, Cadillac and, of course, Turtle.
Plenty has already been made of how the Entourage TV show worked as macho lifestyle porn, flooded with top-shelf brands, celebrity cameos and depictions of the Hollywood high life. It was an aspirational Cinderella story skewed to the tastes of the average, white male any-viewer, its depictions of decadence carefully grounded in the bro-mantic, faithful friendship between movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his menagerie of hangers-on: manager/BFF Eric (Kevin Connolly), half-brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) and chauffeur/pot-smoking cartoon Turtle (Jerry Ferrara).
Entourage's expansion to the big screen has writer/director/showrunner Doug Ellin returning to this well of indulgent Hollywood escapism, opening on the titular gang jetting across the Mediterranean Sea in a boat to hook up with Vince, who is holding court on an even larger boat, following the dissolution of his recent marriage. From Act 1, Scene 1, Entourage is a large-scale masturbatory fantasy – the fifth and sixth words in the script, courtesy Johnny Drama, are "jerk it" – half Maxim, half Robb Report. The lavish chauvinist reverie of icy cold Bud Crowns, gyrating full-frontal nudity and impromptu Pharrell concerts is never ruptured as our four pals roll along their totally frictionless storylines. Not even for one second is it plausible that their trifling personal predicaments won't resolve themselves, as if by the magic of friendship and faithful stick-to-itiveness.
In this way, Entourage's indulgent fantasy reveals itself to be totally unconcerned with the audience who co-opts such catchphrases as "Hug it out!" and takes "Which Entourage Character Are You?" BuzzFeed quizzes, hoping against hope that they're not Turtle. What Ellin has designed with Entourage is a flattering funhouse mirror image of wealth and celebrity in America, a fantasy designed not for the Hollywood wannabes watching HBO in their basements and dorm rooms, but for Hollywood itself.
Early this year, following Comedy Central's roast of Justin Bieber, it was reported that the network had cut a joke by comedian Hannibal Buress. It wasn't for its crassness – after all, this was a program that imagined Martha Stewart performing sex acts that could never be recounted in this paper – but rather for its honesty. "You should thank me," Buress told Bieber, "for participating in this extremely transparent attempt to be more likeable in the public eye."
For Buress, Bieber was subjecting himself to the burns and light sizzles of comics and other pseudo-celebrities in order to redeem his intensely unlikeable public persona by proving he could take a joke. Entourage offers Hollywood – that is, the denizens of Tinsel Town as well as the idea of Hollywood itself – a similarly blatant shot at redemption. No wonder the film, like the show, is stocked with cameos offered by the rich and famous, including: Liam Neeson, Bob Saget, Jessica Alba, Gary Busey, Tom Brady, Mark Cuban, Piers Morgan, Armie Hammer, Ronda Rousey, Warren Buffett and Mark Wahlberg, whose own ascent up the Hollywood food chain inspired Entourage. These celebrity pop-ins are their own kind of product placement, as unashamed as all the bottles of Budweiser and drop-top Cadillac convertibles. By letting America's ultrawealthy play neurotic and unlikeable, Entourage levels the playing field, closing the distance between the superstar 1 per cent and earnest, blue-collar camaraderie shared by Vince, E, Drama and Turtle. "Stars!" Entourage seems to howl, insistently. "We're just like them!"
The problem is that the bond shared by Vince and his entourage, however homespun, is nothing to aspire to. These characters represent the most repellent clichés of male friendship, where guys can only relate to each other through a discourse of casual misogyny and female conquest. In a totally unsurprising turn, the closest thing to real drama in Entourage emerges from two differently entitled men, Vince and the obnoxious Texas financier of his big-budget directorial debut (Haley Joel Osment, improbably), squaring off over the affections of supermodel Emily Ratajkowski. Even the emotional foundations of the Entourage franchise, those oaths of fealty, family and friendship, have rotted, hollowed out by the characters' tendencies toward flippant sexism, homophobia and straight obnoxiousness.
Without this thin veneer of relatability to hide behind, Entourage's function as a long-form PSA for wealth, extravagance, indulgence and the generalized superfluity of American existence reveals itself, in all its garish nastiness. It's never more obvious than in the film's climax, which has the posse strutting the red carpet at the Golden Globes to fete the success of Vince's directorial debut.
Vince, E, Drama, Ari and, yes, even Turtle, wave to the cameras, intercut with footage of "real" celebrities doing the same, all unfolding to the totally unironic deployment of the Who's late-period, last gasp single Eminence Front – a song that hides its cynical contempt for glamour, decadence and hedonism behind catchy, typically 1980s pop-rock instrumentation. "People forget," sings Pete Townsend. "Forget they're hiding. Behind an eminence front. It's a put-on."
Come and join the party.