Tuesday, June 2, 2015

“Entourage” – Great. Now I’m going to lose two days of my life.

One of the most confounding things that happens to me is when people ask if I’ve seen movie X and when I say “no,” they act shocked and become incredulous. My immediate response to that is “how many movies released last year did you see? Because I saw seventy.” And it’s always the so-called classics – “You’ve never seen Reservoir Dogs (gasp!)?” – “How have you never seen any of The Godfathers (double-gasp!!)?” – “You have to watch Blues Brothers (head-shake).” Etcetera, etcetera. I don’t necessarily blame them because people have an expectation that movie reviewers have seen every movie ever made. While it’s possible that some reviewers have seen every movie you name for them, those reviewers get paid to do that. I, on the other hand, do this in my spare time for free because I chose to be a cog in the corporate machine, so I have a lot less time to watch movies, not to mention I consume a fair amount of television as well. Incidentally, the same question happens with television shows and the answer is no, I have never seen even a minute of an episode of Entourage. Now, close your mouth before a fly flies in there.

My choice of movie screenings this week was Entourage and the annual Melissa McCarthy abomination, this year titled Spy. Normally, this would be an easy decision because McCarthy’s movies make me want to die, but I had to consider it because I’d never watched Entourage (the show) and there was a good chance I would hate Entourage (the movie) because I wouldn’t know who the characters were or get any of the inside jokes or references that would undoubtedly be splattered throughout the film. Ultimately, my loathing of McCarthy won out and I picked the movie that had eight seasons and 96 episodes of development preceding it, hoping they wouldn’t pull a Mad Max: Fury Road by expecting you to already know the characters. In other words, produce actual writing beyond “car explodes and bodies go flying.”

Even though I was going into the movie blind, I wasn’t completely clueless. I knew that there was a group of four dudes comprised of at least one actor and three dudes following him around, plus Jeremy Piven as said actor’s agent. Other than that – nothing. Much to my delight, the movie provided ample character introduction and even more development on top of what the show previously delivered. I won’t bore you with a recap of these five characters and neither does the movie, which does a great job of sprinkling historical information about the characters without making it seem like a history lesson. It’s this kind of thing that makes me wonder how HBO could have done such a good job with Entourage, yet shit the bed so badly with both Sex and the City movies (especially since Entourage and Sex And the City have essentially the same formula for its makeup).

The plot of Entourage (the movie) was the other thing I was worried about. Based on the previews, Ari (Piven) is now the head of a film studio and he wants Vince (Adrian Grenier) to star in his first movie. Vince agrees, but with the stipulation that he also gets to direct the film. I thought the rest of the film was going to be a struggle between Ari and Vince over additional finances, which sounded a lot like watching a sports movie where the main plot is going to be a contract dispute between a player and general manager. That doesn’t exactly sound riveting, not to mention confusing because Vince and Ari are supposed to be friends. Thankfully, that is only the catalyst for the actual plot – Ari trying to obtain the extra money from a couple of filthy rich, redneck Texans (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment). While that is going on, the other three guys each have their own subplots that have nothing to do with the main plot of the film. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is working on a relationship with Ronda Rousey (playing herself), Drama (Kevin Dillon) is trying to get another acting job, and E (Kevin Connelly) is juggling a pregnant ex and two absurdly hot women. While that might seem like loose writing on the surface, the various plotlines all work because this movie is ultimately about the five dudes’ friendship and how they help each other through their issues.

Besides the characters and their plots, there are a couple of other things that make the film work well. The first are the countless cameos of actors, athletes, and models scattered throughout the film. For as many as there were, a surprisingly low number of them felt forced (Tom Brady and Gary Busey for example) and even those worked as quick comedic gags. Of the ones that were exceptional, Richard Schiff’s stands out the most, reminding us why he was such a vital piece of The West Wing. The second was the comedy, which starts out a little slow and obvious, but settles into a really good groove once the characters are established into their plotlines. As the film wore on, the audience and I were laughing harder and more frequently and none of it relied on lazy toilet humor or the fat jokes all but certain to be found in Spy. Also, a shout out to Haley Joel Osment appearing as an adult and reminding us that he is more than just that kid who sees dead people. Of all the things I didn’t expect in this movie, that one was the biggest surprise.

If there was one weakness in this film, it’s the way in which it treats Vince’s movie. For all of the comedy and cameos, the film tries to take itself semi-seriously in terms of the characters and portrayal of the movie industry and does a very good job, except with the reception of Vince’s film (Hyde). We only see a quick snippet of Hyde (a Zack Snyder-esque action shot) and we are told that Drama has a role, though he only appears in four scenes. (SPOILER ALERT) Yet, at the tail-end our movie, Hyde is up for five Golden Globes, including best picture, and Drama wins best supporting actor. Given what we know, this seems counter to the rest of the film and feels very much over-the-top – essentially, tacked on for no logical reason. The only thing that felt right was hearing that Hyde was raking in money like a Marvel film and they easily could have just left it at that since the entire movie was centered on money.

Make no mistake – this movie is for guys. With the exception of a couple of wives and Rousey, the women are treated as set pieces – appearing either in bikinis, topless, or topless and having sex with E – to be ogled by the dudes who are this movie’s main audience (and don’t think I’m complaining, because those women are gorgeous – yes, I’m a dude). The closest thing to male nudity is a blurry-handed picture of Drama jerking off and Russell Wilson playing beach volleyball. They even manage to fit in some gay jokes while winking at you that it’s okay because Ari is going to give away his gay assistant at said assistant’s wedding. I don’t believe this was meant to be offensive, but was meant to reassure the bros in the audience of their manhood. For the record, I have no problem with gays or male nudity, but I think gay men would agree with me that nobody wants to see Kevin Dillon naked.

The bottom line is that this movie is a very, very good movie for both dedicated fans and Entourage-virgins like me. In fact, I liked the movie so much that now I’m forced to skip a couple of movies in order to watch Entourage the show. But at least you won’t gasp now when you asked if I’ve seen it.

Rating: Worth more than you paid for it if you are a dude, but women will probably want a buck or two back since they didn’t even get a decent ass-shot of Russell Wilson.

1 comment: