The Internship | Movie Review

Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn Reunion Muted By Shameless Sentimentality
The Internship

The Internship is to The Social Network what Trouble With The Curve was to Moneyball: a predictable, shamelessly sentimental story about how human contact and face-to-face conversation is still necessary in the digital age. 

Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson) were once hot-shot salesmen at the top of their game, selling high-end watches to wealthy clients. Now, in an age where everyone can check the time on their iPhones, their boss (John Goodman) is closing up shop, leaving these dinosaurs out to dry. Billy has a house being forecloused, while Nick takes a job selling matresses for his sister's boyfriend (a cameo from a fellow Frat Pack member that is one of the film's funniest moments). 

While searching for jobs, Billy lands them a gig, but not the one they would have hoped: an internship at Google with potential to turn into a job. When they arrive at Google headquarters in Santa Monica, their lack of knowledge in this field shows. The internship director (Aasif Mandvi) finds them incompetent, and the students do not want to work with them, especially Graham (Max Minghella, the Winklevii's lacky in The Social Network), a cutthroat techie with no regard for anyone but himself. 

"So Vince, what are you going to spend your paycheck on?"

When it comes to picking teams, they are, as predicted, the last to get picked, only to get lumped together with the other non-picked interns: a team leader lacking in social skills (Josh Brener), a cynic whose eyes are glued to his phone (Dylan O'Brien), a teasing cosplayer (Tiya Sircar), and a masochistic homeschooler (Tobit Raphael). Naturally, at first, their misfit team cannot come together to win any of the competition, with no help from the jabbering Billy and Nick. However, once Billy and Nick teach them the value of teamwork, they start to pull of miracles, both entities realizing that they can learn a lot from each others' generations. 

Putting aside the blatant Google product placement and the painfully predictable storyline, there's one true reason why The Internship never fully comes together: the loose, fast-talking chemistry of Vaughn and Wilson does not mix well with the gooey, cutesy sentiment of director Shawn Levy, notorious for lowbrow, yet box office ringing family franchises (Cheaper By the Dozen, Night at the Museum). Vaughn and Wilson's chemistry from Wedding Crashers, the 2005 smash that was not only genuinely funny, but also brought the idea surging back that raunchy, R-rated comedies can turn a profit, hasn't evaporated. These two can still play off each other like natural comedic pros, but this dynamic duo does not operate well under PG-13 constraints. 

The film's attempt at relevancy: A Quidditch match

It's shocking that someone decided in 2013 it was a good idea to reteam Vaughn and Wilson rather than a year or two after Wedding Crashers. The years have not been kind to them after their last pairing. Vaughn had a few hits that we coldly-received (The Break-Up, Couple's Retreat, Four Christmases), but has mostly seen diminishing returns (Fred Claus, The Dilemma, The Watch). Wilson has had less box office success, but the quality of his films (The Darjeeling Limited, How Do You Know, Midnight in Paris) has been unquestionably better than Vaughn's, whose fast-talking persona really only work best when he is unrestrained (Swingers and Old School, in addition to Wedding Crashers). 

Upon viewing this film, one of the things i was going to touch on is why didn't director Levy do with Wilson and Vaughn what he did on his best film (albeit still not a great film), Date Night, which was ditch most of the uninspired script and let Steve Carell and Tina Fey carry the film on their improv ability. However, after watching the credits, it was revealed that Vaughn co-wrote the script with Jared Stern (of The Watch and Mr. Popper's Penguins infamy), with Vaughn credited for story. Of course he wasn't going to let Vaughn and Wilson improv because he thought they had put gold on the paper. 

Problem is, their byplay is admirable, but rarely hits the mark. The characters are more like charicatures, representing a stereotpyical trait of a twenty-something in the tech age, and then once they all start getting along, they have no personality to distinguish themselves from one another. One of the film's accuracies is the eye-rolling of the young students when these men in their forty's ask a question that to them is obvious. I took classes in my film and video studies program with an older gentlemen who felt he was on the professor's level because of age, but he wasn't even up to the student's level in performance. The film is inaccurate in that these outcasts would be so accepted after screwing up so many times, even if they meant well. Oh yeah, there's also a relationship with Wilson and Rose Byrne as a thirty-something programmer who has felt she's worked the last ten years of her life away, but, as I am throwing it in here last minute, it is a very forgettable plot thread. The film also runs for a tortorous two hours, which would not be bad if it were funnier and had an actual plot, but The Internship just lies there spinning its wheels, cruising by on flat fish-out-of-water jokes and a happy-go-lucky story that is supposed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The studio comedies continue to arrive with a crashing thud, and while The Internship has more laughs than Identity Thief, The Hangover Part III, and Movie 43 combined, that is not saying much.