Monday, June 8, 2015

Entourage: the same old menu. What else did you expect?

If I walk into a McDonald's, order a Quarter Pounder and Fries and then take a bite, is it at all fair to wince and say, "This isn't even in the same ballpark as the Umami Burger I had last week!"

Probably not. McDonald's exists specifically because you know what you're getting when you order, because it's fast, it's cheap and it occupies space in your stomach until you again require sustenance. You can go anywhere in the country and be assured that the burger you order at one McDonald's is exactly the same mass-produced meal you'd get at any other McDonald's. It's not a place you go to expand your pallate. If you're gonna get picky about taste, what the hell are you doing going to a place with a drive-thru?

Entourage is the McDonald's of TV and film. Every episode has pretty much the same ingredients:

- Ari screams
- some vague conflicts and deal-making related to the film business, but not so detailed you ever get a sense the people making the show understand the business of producing and selling content.
- bikinis
- babes
- asses
- sexist remarks from Drama
- constipated looks from Eric
- short jokes about Eric
- asses
- references to banging
- weed
- Lloyd is mocked
- Vince is sure it'll all work out
- Drama worries about his career
- Drama embarrasses himself at an audition
- asses
- E's has relationship drama that couldn't be compelling if both parties were double agents for the KGB
- Despite being an abusive sexist boor, Ari has a heart of gold.

And honestly, that's exactly what you're getting with this movie. There's nothing you'll find in this movie that hasn't been done already in some form on the series. Sure, there are a few cosmetic changes. Vince's movie that's causing all the drama this time happens to be his directorial debut rather than merely a starring vehicle. Ari is also doing his screaming from his office as a studio head rather than an agency but it's all the same dynamics as before. Like the Mike Love-fronted Beach Boys, this reunion tour plays the hits, never approaching anything from "the new album."

Reviewing Entourage would be kind of a pointless exercise. On a relative scale, it's better than the final two seasons of the show were, but it doesn't approach the heights of season 2.

As always, a big part of the problem is Vince, who's written and performed uncompellingly. But if you watched the series, this is nothing new. After a few seasons it became hard to ignore that Adrian Grenier lacked the sort of charisma you'd find in a star of Vince's supposed stature. (He's spoken of as if he's somewhere between a Wahlberg and a DiCaprio... which writes a check that Grenier simply can't cash.) I took to imagining what other TV-level actors might have made more compelling Vinces, and ended up pondering how Revenge's Nick Wechsler and The Vampire Diaries Paul Wesley might have embodied the character.

I know it's fruitless to complain about this, but the film skips over the one golden chance it had to really take a risk. Early on, Vince declares he wants to direct his next movie. Flash-forward eight months and the film's in the can and Vince is overdue to show it to Ari. (Yes, that's lighting-speed for a $100 million film to go from pre-production to wrapping up post in that time, but just go with it.)

Those are the eight months we should have seen! Entourage has done the whole "will this movie kill Vince's career?" storyline before. We've seen Vince and crew in these kinds of situations. But seeing Vince behind the camera is totally new territory. The character has never been depicted as a big picture sort of guy, so it would have been interesting to see him deal with the weight of an entire movie on his shoulders as he stars in it. I want to see him setting up shots with his DP, directing other actors, and keeping this massive film on schedule.

It would have been a golden opportunity to really challenge Vince and maybe break the guy down enough to really show what makes him tick. The film ends up leaning on the idea that Vince made a brilliant movie and given what we know of Vince, I wouldn't have thought him capable of that. There's so much conflict that the movie skips over just so it can stay within the bounds of the familiar.

I know, I know. As soon as I walked into McDonald's I forfeited the right to complain about the menu.

Can we at least agree that it's weird that two Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models (Emily Ratajkowski and Alyssa Miller) play themselves in this film, but that an SI cover model (Nina Agdal) shows up as just a random hottie on Vince's yacht? It's a little like casting Ringo Starr as himself, but having Paul McCartney play a roadie.

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