Internship, The (United States, 2013)June 06, 2013
Perhaps The Internship might have worked eight years ago, had it been released in the wake of the unexpected success of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson's Wedding Crashers. (Emphasis on the word perhaps - this movie wouldn't have been any better in 2005, just perhaps less out of step with current movie goers' habits.) In 2013, however, everything about it feels stale: the actors, the story, the comedy, everything. And, to make matters worse, that everything goes on for an interminable two hours.
On one level, The Internship plays out like a 120-minute commercial for Google. The screenplay is peppered with praise. The Google campus is presented as a tech Mecca and is referred to on more than one occasion (and without a hint of sarcasm) as "Eden." Apparently, the price of obtaining Google's buy-in to the project and permission to shoot on-site was to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. No messing around with Mr. In-Between. What's strange, however, is that Google, rightfully viewed as a forward-thinking company, would latch onto a dinosaur like The Internship. Not only is this a lackluster movie but it's not likely to be exceptionally popular, which makes its value as an image-enhancer somewhat questionable.
One of the biggest problems associated with The Internship lies in its inability to reconcile the desire to lampoon and satirize the "nerd culture" with a veneration of it. The Internship is chock full of stereotypes and familiar geek tropes. (Although, it should be noted, pretty much every woman in the film fits into one of two categories: hot and hotter.) The movie never figures out whether it wants to be laughing at or with the nerds and, as a result, ends up doing neither. The Internship contains few characters - no real attempts are made to humanize the techies. That would, apparently, require too much effort and would diminish the "comedic" potential inherent in making fun of the socially awkward stereotypes.
The story focuses on expert salesman Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson), who unexpectedly find themselves unemployed and at loose ends in their mid-40s. Deciding to reinvent themselves, they apply for internships at Google. Once accepted, they learn that the way Google decides who's worthy of a job offer is by breaking the interns into teams and having those teams compete against one another. The winners get the jobs. The losers go home. Of course, since no one wants to have two over-the-hill, non-tech savvy men on their team, Billy and Nick are lumped together with the other outcasts: the dour, cynical Stuart (Dylan O'Brien); the pretty, sex-obsessed Neha (Tiya Sircar); the shy, home-schooled Yo-Yo (Tophit Raphael); and the team leader, uber nerd Lyle (Josh Brener). Their main opposition is led by a petty, vindictive snob (Max Minghella) whose "win at all costs" attitude is most "un-Google-like."
The Internship plays out like a hybrid fish-out-of-water story and sports movie, although it doesn't do either especially well. In what might be viewed as an attempt to show geek cred, it gamely references numerous touchstones: Harry Potter (there's a game of quidditch), X-Men, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and so forth. (Curiously, the biggest shout-out is to Flashdance. No Jennifer Beals but "What a Feeling" is used.) Screenwriters Vaughn and Jared Stern, who toss around "techie terms" without understanding a thing about how to use them, confuse condescension for sympathy. The nerdiest character, Lyle, isn't likeably awkward, he's unbearably annoying. Neha is every geek's dream girl; I'm not sure someone like her really exists.
Of course, the non-geeks Billy and Nick come across admirably. They bond, grow, and learn things. Unfortunately, Vince Vaughn plays Billy pretty much the way he plays every other character (fast-talking, slick, insensitive). And Owen Wilson is trying to get by on boyish charisma that's well past its sell-by date. Director Shawn Levy, whose credits include the unforgiveable Pink Panther remake and the inexplicably successful Night at the Museum, proves that not only is his sense of comedic timing questionable, but his skills at developing romantic subplots is downright awful. There are no fewer than three of these in The Internship and the film might be half-star better without any of them. The worst offender, and the one with the most screen time, inflicts a Rose Byrne/Owen Wilson pairing on audiences. These two couldn't generate heat at midday in the Sahara. Their interaction isn't just infantile, it's painful.
Whether or not Google got a good deal out of The Internship is open to debate. One would think their brand is well enough known that this kind of publicity isn't necessary. The company itself comes across well even if the same can't be said of much else. As a nerd, I found The Internship insulting. As a movie-goer, I found it offensive. It's two hours of tedium rescued only occasionally by barely amusing humor that rarely pushes the tame PG-13 envelope. Give The Internship a failing grade and send everyone involved back to school.
Internship, The (United States, 2013)
Cast: Vince Vaughn, John Goodman, Max Minghella, Tophit Raphael, Dylan O'Brien, Tiya Sircar, Josh Brener, Rose Byrne, Owen Wilson, Aasif Mandvi
Screenplay: Vince Vaughn & Jared Stern
Cinematography: Jonathan Brown
Music: Christophe Beck
U.S. Distributor: 20th Century Fox