Four years after its HBO series finale, the Entourage movie struts its stuff into multiplexes, making the questionable, often doomed leap from small to silver screen. This grand decision could come from appeasing the eager wishes of the TV show’s original fan base, or perhaps from the creator’s pious hope to keep the show’s characters and world alive and well – only on another visual medium. Adaptations like this, whether they’re successful or not, are typically a useful case study for seeing the basic aesthetic and structural differences between television and cinema.
Entourage, which opened in theatres Wednesday, is the latest example of this adaptation. After its 96-episode run of HBO, Entourage has now been hoisted onto the big screen, under the aegis of a nearly 30 million-dollar budget. As cinema, the franchise boasts an increase in its scale, but also an evident decrease in its narrative scope. What that means is, as a movie, Entourage feels larger, mounted on a visual platform with the potential for framing the characters in larger-than-life ways. There are some shots here that you wouldn’t see pulled off in the show. However, the narrative reach is at its narrowest, offering little depth and variety to the day-to-day pursuits of the individual characters.
At 104 minutes (just under the length of four of its episodes), the movie, written and directed by the show’s creator Doug Ellin, manages its runtime by focusing on its “A” Plot. The movie, therefore, surrounds the uncertain fate of superstar Vincent Chase’s (Adrian Grenier) directorial debut, Hyde. The majority of the film’s events relay back to Chase’s 100 million-dollar vanity project; the subplots, unlike in the show, do not branch out and become the arteries pumping life into the heart of the central storyline. The show created the production of James Cameron’s Aquaman, the financial and critical turkey Medellin, and you-kidding-I-am Queen’s Boulevard as crux events, but also showed a vested interest in the career aims of Vince’s entourage pals Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon). After a couple seasons, superagent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) started to overshadow this crew, his brashness and cutthroat endeavours presented themselves as inexhaustible fuel for powering the show’s narrative drive.
Having had eight seasons to flesh out its characters, Entourage has now seemed to reach a cap on character development. The movie restores the characters’s TV personas, but keeps them static. For viewers unfamiliar with the show, these characters will come off as archetypes: Eric the Producer; Turtle the Driver; Drama the Has-Been; Vince the Proven Star but Wanna-Be Director; and Ari the Egomaniacal Studio Head (any deeper understanding of them would spring from knowledge of the TV show). The movie, somewhat hamfistedly, sets up these archetypes near the start with a Piers Morgan special on Hyde, taking the opportunity to cover the entourage’s backstories for the benefit of the uninitiated (Entourage fans will use this as a reminder of Drama’s role on Viking Quest, Eric’s management of a Sbarro, or Turtle’s business dealings with Mark Cuban).
Entourage, like any TV franchise committed to film, must broker a relationship with its original fan base and the general moviegoing audience. Firstly, there is an important distinction in the expectations of adaptation a TV show into a film, opposed to the one of a best-selling novel: with the former, the movie typically inspires a continuation of the show’s events, while retaining its spirit, whereas the latter bears a certain fidelity to the specifics of the source material’s plot, along with that same retention of spirit. Generally, audience blowback is greater with literary adaptations, because of that extraordinary leap in mediums and the necessity of excising elements from the book to accompany the screen’s storytelling capabilities.
With Entourage, the movie hews so closely to the show’s spirit of brotherliness-coated-in-sunshine that it lends itself to the criticism that it’s an “extended episode” of the series, which is typically a way of critics questioning its cinematic merit. There’s a catch-22 here: while many TV-to-movie adaptations raise this issue of redundancy, there is also the issue of taking extensive liberties with a show to the point of reproach by a loyal, pedantic fan base. Examples that come to mind include Michael Mann’s 2006 update of Miami Vice, or David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which, at the time, was scorned by critics and fans of the show for its scathing departure from the chipper, damn-good-cup-of-coffee tone of its top-rated ABC show.
While certainly no hallmark of cinema, Entourage won’t be labelled as “the film that killed Entourage”, as Lynch’s origin tale was (though today, it’s popularly regarded as a misunderstood masterpiece). Entourage plays to familiarity, but in that safeness basks too comfortably in the glitz of the Hollywood dream factory. The stakes seem smaller, as the movie devotes too much time shoehorning in celeb cameos, rendering the main source of wonder what other big names will pop up on the movie’s guest list. In a way, the Entourage film reflects the show’s popularity, by rubbing and relishing in the success of the show and its characters within the show.
As a movie, Entourage celebrates itself. That could explain why the film closes in such an unbelievably uplifting way – so unbelievable, in fact, it suggests pure fantasy. While enjoyable for its superficial elements, the movie dissolves any of the ambiguity left over from the series final. Disappointingly, the film skips over Ari’s decision process in becoming studio head – which was the cliffhanger of the series finale – and ends in such a way that the trajectory of these characters is unequivocally heading for more wealth and success. Thus, if there’s a reason for the Entourage movie to exist, it’s simply this: to relocate the characters in a new visual playground, and in turn exploit cinema for its most mainstream offerings – nostalgia, escapism, and closure.