Entourage was one of the most successful and buzzed about series ever produced by HBO, and this week it makes it debut on the big screen. DEBBIE McGOLDRICK says the film and its cast, including Irish Americans Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon (and a cameo by Liam Neeson) delivers the goods and then some.


That’s a pivotal line delivered with gusto by one of the main characters in the new movie Entourage – it would spoil the plot to divulge who said it, and at what point – but the exclamation neatly sums up the triumph that is Entourage, the new film based on the successful HBO series about a rising Hollywood star and his posse which ended in 2011.

Full disclosure: I was a big fan of the show, which chronicled the adventures of movie star Vincent Chase from Queens and the three guys who headed for Hollywood with him – best buddy and former pizza maker Eric, who became his manager; another pal, Turtle, who assumed the role of his fixer; and last but not least, poor Johnny Drama, Vince’s older half-brother and Z-list actor dying to break free from forgettable bit parts and earn fame in his own right.

Moving a hit series from TV to the big screen can be a tricky business – the beloved Sex and the City a case in point. The first film that followed the further adventures of Carrie Bradshaw and her BFFs was just about passable; the second and final one was atrocious. I feared the same painful death for Entourage.

Thankfully, that hasn’t happened. Entourage is a hoot, a super-sized version of the series that works so well because it stays true to the characters we came to love and the deep bond that they share in the dog eat dog world of celebrity – complete with zinging one-liners and brilliant take downs that made the half-hour episodes in the eight season run so hilarious.

The show ended in 2011, but the movie picks up only days after the finale which had the crew flying to Paris on a private jet to celebrate Vince’s wedding to a snotty British writer who he inexplicably fell head over heels for (truth be told, the last episode was one of the show’s weakest, maddeningly so.)

Unsurprisingly Mr. and Mrs. Chase weren’t built to last, and it doesn’t take long for Vince (played by Adrian Grenier) to reunite with his man squad and, of course, lots of adoring, chiseled babes in various states of dress.

They head back to La La Land, and waiting for them is Vince’s former uber-agent and newly minted studio head Ari Gold (a never better Jeremy Piven), who had his own life change in the show’s final episode when his whiny wife, Mrs. Ari (of no known first name, like Big in Sex and the City) made him give up his high octane career for a quieter existence in Italy.

That lasted for about as long as you would expect, with the rude, loud, raging and bitingly funny Ari – based on real-life Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel -- lured back to his natural habitat to finally run his own studio.

Vince is not only ready to get back in of the cameras in the action film Hyde, but he also wants to direct. Ari – who, we find out in a flashback, discovered Vince when he starred in a cheesy commercial for Mentos mints – smells an out of control vanity project looming but he relents and gives Vince the reins.

Naturally the budget spirals, Vince needs more dough and Ari freaks out, mostly because he’s forced to travel to Texas to grovel at the cowboy-booted feet of the studio owner Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton, who never misses) and his loser son Travis played by Haley Joel Osment, perfectly cast as a southern slimeball who tries to muscle in on Vince’s film and his woman.

The side stories hum along too. Eric (Irish American Long Islander Kevin Connolly) and his baby mama Sloan (Emmanuelle Chirqui) have their usual complications, and Turtle (a slimmed down Jerry Ferrara), now a millionaire thanks to his tequila empire who owns an oceanfront estate “next to Spielberg,” is gung-ho to romance UFC star Ronda Rousey, the baddest woman on the planet who shows she can definitely act, too.

Johnny Drama, played to the hilt by Kevin Dillon, is as self-absorbed but ultimately lovable as ever. It’s hard when after decades in the business casting agents are still calling him Jimmy and unfavorably comparing him to his baby bro Vince, but don’t fear, Drama gets his own brush with TMZ-generated fame in one of the film’s several laugh out loud plot lines that leaves everyone except Johnny in stitches.

What would Entourage be without Ari’s former long-suffering gay Asian assistant Lloyd? Lloyd (Rex Lee) is an agent in his own right now who’s ready to get married to his fiancée, Olympic gold medal diving champ Greg Louganis. His back and forth with pretend-homophobe Ari about the wedding is vintage banter between the pair – unfortunately minus the regular shouts of “Lllooooyyyyydddd” that were a fixture in the series.

There’s a frantic scene towards the end between Ari and the studio poobahs who want to can him and wrest control of Vince’s movie. Ari makes his case and seems to save the day for the film and his own job … or so we think. Thornton’s surprisingly thoughtful Larsen McCredle, though, teaches Ari -- always a family man at heart -- a life lesson he won’t soon forget.

Entourage featured a red carpet long line of stars during its HBO run and the film doubles down on the cameos, some of them extremely brief. Liam Neeson, driving a convertible, sneers at Ari and gives him the middle finger at a red light; also look out for the likes of Tom Brady, Jessica Alba, Entourage co-creator Mark Wahlberg, Pharrell, Matt Lauer and a host of other stars.

Also in the mix are semi-regular series guest stars Bob Saget, Gary Busey (spacey as ever), Mark Cuban and Rhys Corio, who returns as the suit-hating director Billy Walsh of Medellin infamy, who just might have an idea for Entourage II ...

Long-time fans can have no gripe with the debut of Entourage on screen -- though it would have been sweet to see a bit more of Lloyd. And Turtle, rich in his own right now, should have been doing more than driving the guys around and organizing parties.

Entourage masterfully satirized the good and bad of Hollywood – the glamor, the back-stabbing, the adulation, the heartbreak. Vince, Ari, Eric, Turtle and Drama survived it all and then some because nothing, it seems, can tear them apart, and fans new and old can once again sit back and enjoy the ride.