There Is a God in Celluloid Heaven! Entourage Flops at Box Office

You could be vaccinating felines for a year at an animal shelter and still not hear the word "pussy" as much as you do in the first half hour of Entourage. This expansion of the HBO TV series appears to have been conceived by a gaggle of misogynistic, beer-chugging adolescent virgins who brag about getting laid, but the closest they've ever gotten is a Playboy centerfold bespattered with cream of mushroom soup that they rescued from the city dump.

To be fair, I have never viewed any episode of this series that I thought was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek inside gander at Hollywood. Instead, what we have here is a glorified daydream of the male need to copulate with any orifice within five inches of his zipper. Make that four inches.

Directed and written with unflinching ineptitude and fetid taste by the series' executive producer Doug Ellin, the film is basically plotless. Vince (Adrian Grenier), a pretty boy superstar discovered in a Mentos commercial by super-agent-turned-studio-head Ari Gold (a one-note Jeremy Piven), is now given the chance to act in and direct a $100 million motion picture even though he's had no previous experience behind the camera--and before the camera he's no Ian McKellen.

Of course, the lad goes over-budget, which jeopardizes both his and Ari's careers. Meanwhile, his hangers-on -- the boys from the borough of Queens -- do little more than palpitate over mammary glands and well-rounded arses that apparently have overrun Los Angeles.

Kevin Dillon plays Vince's sibling, Johnny Drama, a character apparently based upon himself: a talentless, less attractive brother of a well-known actor (Matt Dillon) who desires to be a respected thespian. In the film, Johnny eventually receives that acclaim. In real life, based upon this performance, Dillon never will. Even his breathing seems overdone. Drama's supposed highlight moment here is when a video of himself slapping his salami goes viral. This is supposed to be extremely amusing. It isn't.

Worse is the dramatic arc for Eric (Kevin Connolly), a pizza maker turned Vince's manager. He has unprotected sex with two damsels in one day while his ex-girlfriend is just about to give birth, and she knowingly takes him back. How desperate does Ellin think West Coast women are to behave in such a manner? Sue the bastard for child support, girl, and find a man whose brains aren't shoved into his one-eyed trouser snake.

Film historian Jeanine Basinger notes in A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960 that "no one has ever seriously questioned the idea that Hollywood has ever had only one real reason for making movies--to generate profits. There has been no other organized agenda, hidden or otherwise. If certain individuals have had ideas or beliefs or political persuasions that were important to their artistic visions, they had to find a way to steer them past a large committee of executives, writers, designers, producers, actors, and other people. That some could do this was a tribute to their strength of character, determination, talent, and perseverance." Clearly, these are all traits that Ellin, who also wrote and directed Phat Beach (1996), lacks.

As The Washington Post's Richard Harrington noted of that early effort to cash in on the African-American youth culture, "Phat Beach looks all too often like the kind of black film so wickedly parodied in Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle. . . . It's weakly plotted, badly filmed, terribly acted. It's low-phat."

"It's weakly plotted, badly filmed, terribly acted. It's low-phat" is a critique that fits Entourage like a custom designed condom, which is sad because biting yet loving comedies about the film industry have so often worked before. Robert Altman's The Player, François Truffaut's Night for Day, and Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, for example. All these boasted wisdom and artistry. These film's directors had a vision where Ellin has a cash register.

Entourage, in the end, is an unfunny schlong-a-thon fashioned by a crude purveyor of infantile sexual impulses and a fear of formidable, astute women. - Brandon Judell

brandon.jpgMr. Judell has written on film for The Village VoiceindieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint.

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