by Brett Parker
The Internship shows Vince Vaughn playing a man hard-up for decent work who turns to Google, considered one of the best places to work in the world, to help him out of his rut. Since the credits reveal that Vaughn helped develop this film’s script, it’s not hard to see how this plot could all be a thinly-veiled peak at the current stage of his own career. For it’s been a while since Vaughn has made a decent comedy (hardly anyone would consider Couples Retreat and The Dilemma to be on the same level as Old School) and perhaps he’s looking to the inherent fascination of the Google company to generate a likable flick. Along for the ride is his old Wedding Crashers pal Owen Wilson, undoubtedly so the duo can try and recreate the magic from their last bromantic collaboration. The Internship is nowhere near as funny as that earlier movie, but I appreciate the effort and I find myself strangely drawn to the overwhelming sunshine this Hollywood product blasts through the screen.
The film opens with watch salesmen Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) being laid off from their job when their employer goes out of business. Since most watch sales are being transacted online nowadays, the need for face-to-face salesmanship is quickly being diminished. Realizing that their personal skills won’t net them much in today’s job market, Billy comes up with a plan to score the duo an internship at Google, the company revolved around the popular search engine website. Google is widely regarded as one of the best companies to work for, due to its increasing popularity, endless perks, and innovative growth. Billy convinces Nick that mastering an internship would not only get them jobs at one of the happiest organizations on Earth, but might even provide them with technological skills that would give them a leg-up in an ever-changing world.
Thanks to a goofy yet sincere webcam interview, the pair score an internship and they soon discover that Google truly is a Willy Wonka-like nirvana for techie freaks. The only problem is that most of the young interns are so intellectually advanced that they make Billy and Nick look like thick-headed dinosaurs. Billy and Nick try to put their best resources forward, but they keep getting pummeled by the computer geniuses around them. The only way the duo can hope to keep afloat is to find clever ways to apply their personal skills and charismatic personalities in accomplishing increasingly difficult digital tasks.
The Internship has been accused of being an overblown product-placement commercial for the Google company. It more or less is, but so what? Google is certainly one of the most colorful, innovative, and generous places to work, and it’s been ripe for the Hollywood limelight to show up for quite some time. Yet the use of Google here isn’t completely vapid, for the script is out to shine light on the ordeal of an older generation completely bewildered by today’s technological landscape. Vaughn and Wilson clearly belong to a generation that once upon a time didn’t have to rely heavily on smartphones, online social networking, and elaborate computer smarts to function in the real world. Their oafish fumbling through the Google world not only reflects their own anxieties but also the anxieties of many older Americans. The comforting revelation here is that the fella’s humanity, which contains down-to-earth charm, bar banter, and warm face-to-face engagements, triumphs infinitely in the face of the digital age.
Vaughn and Wilson have developed such a superb comic wordplay in their own rights that they’ve accumulated a peculiar gift for making deranged dialogue sound like it’s coming from a genuine place. The Internship relies too heavily on their interplay, putting a strain on it that hinders the Wedding Crashers exuberance it’s gunning for. Most of the blame can probably be attributed to director Shawn Levy (Date Night, Just Married), who hasn’t exactly proven to be a masterful comic director. While I enjoyed his Real Steel, I find most of his films to be tame and dimwitted comedies that lack any real bite or edge. While he may deliver competence, he hardly delivers any real laughs, and that doesn’t exactly make him the ideal candidate to indulge in Vaughn and Wilson’s wildest impulses. Yet The Internship is one of Levy’s more tolerable comedies, perhaps because he knew enough to sorta stay out of Vaughn and Wilson’s way and even provide a cameo for one of their Frat Pack buddies whose become the patron saint of insane cameos. This is all really Shawn Levy trying to be Todd Phillips, which is considerably more enjoyable than Shawn Levy being Shawn Levy.
The Internship doesn’t exactly provide a surplus of laughs, but I found myself enjoying the movie anyways because its blind optimism about today’s world is kind of charming. One of the things we’ve come to expect from studio fluff is positive energy magnified in a heightened, candy-coated reality that suggests backhanded ways everyday moviegoers can deal with life’s problems. And when that positive energy is being served up by two gifted comic actors in one of the most interesting places in the country, I kind of don’t mind meeting it halfway. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t leave the theater feeling sunny vibes, and I think sunny vibes are a fair trade-off with today’s ticket prices.