‘The Internship’ Is a Lot of Work with Minimal Payoff
There is no accounting for taste in The Internship, a heinously self-indulgent, two-hour commercial for Google that just so happens to star Wedding Crashers funnymen Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two 40-something men who become interns at the technology conglomerate. While the film is busy with its thinly veiled attempts at hocking the seemingly endless positive facets of Google, it forgets to acknowledge that its narrative and stars are trying to fight for a little recognition.
Nevertheless, that story follows Billy (Vaughn, who co-wrote the film) and Nick (Wilson), two smooth-talking wristwatch salesmen who lose their jobs (because watches aren’t cool anymore) and end up — through a series of highly unrealistic events — competing for full-time positions at Google through a college program (they apply to an online college to be eligible). Normally, an unpaid internship alongside kids half their age in a field they know nothing about would not be a logical career move for men staring down the barrel of unemployment, but what fun is that?
Technologically inept and out of their generational element, the duo is begrudgingly teamed with four young brainiacs (including Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) who, even at a company where being a nerd is worn as a badge of honor, are ostracized as misfits because of their looks and/or inferior collegiate credentials. Together with their fresh-faced Einsteins, Billy and Nick must compete in an intellectual competition that requires them to create apps, debug program coding, and learn that, in this world of high IQs, “playing sports” means a cutthroat game of Quidditch. As you might expect, life lessons for both the middle-aged and the young ensue.
The case could be made that the real star of The Internship is Google’s playground-like California headquarters — where the food is free, the company bikes are colorful, the Wi-Fi is undoubtedly strong, the cars drive themselves, “nap pods” are a real thing, and the only people who aren’t perky and helpful are the ones who don’t work there. But for argument’s sake, let’s pretend that Vaughn and Wilson can compete with that and retain top billing.
In 2005’s Wedding Crashers, the two men gained hearty laughs as the poster boys for depravity and immaturity — bedding more than a few bridesmaids with their sly quips and breathless banter. But here, they are reduced to family-friendly, old-school goofs caught between a rock and the proverbial hard place that is unemployment in the digital age. Seen as irrelevant by their younger counterparts, the two spend the majority of the movie awkwardly rambling to keep up with the tech-savvy thinkers. “You’re just saying a lot of words really fast that don’t mean anything,” groans one of their long-faced team members.
Moreover, they are made to seem incompetent because they refer to the Internet as “on the line,” their outdated references include Alanis Morissette songs and long-winded metaphors involving Flashdance, and their team-rallying speeches reek of a hokey sentimentality that hasn’t been relevant in film since the 1980s. Vaughn and Wilson aptly keep up with what is thrown at them, but they are much more talented, both separately and collectively, than the jokes would seem. There are a few sight gags and situations that muster a chuckle or two, but ultimately, the two men never escape their one-noted roles as the old guys in the crowd.
Elsewhere in the plot is a romance between Nick and a gorgeous superior (Rose Byrne), a villainously snobby competitor (Max Minghella), a boss with a permanent grimace reserved for the fumbling duo (Aasif Mandvi), and a sequence where the team sells the life-changing Google to a family-owned pizza joint because, if you didn’t get the message already, GOOGLE IS GREAT! The story ultimately convenes ever so safely down the predictable path that finds the group coming together, despite their differences, and teaching each other the value of teamwork.
Oddly enough, somewhere in the thick of it all is a cleverly subtle tale of the very timely issue of unemployment that would be richly familiar to those facing the same hardships themselves if it weren’t so bowled over by the glamour of Google and a few lame jokes.
Relying too heavily on the built-in generational gap humor, The Internship is a surprisingly devolved comedy from the guys whose combined comedic wits made Wedding Crashers such a sleeper hit. Vaughn and Wilson’s distinct rapport is undeniable, but when the comedy at their disposal is rudimentary at best, their long-awaited reunion seems like the result of nothing more than a quick Google search for filmmaking 101.
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Featured image: Nick (Owen Wilson) and Billy (Vince Vaughn) ponder one of the many puzzles during their internship at Google. Photo Credit: Phil Bray – © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises. All rights reserved.