The Internship (2013) / Comedy

MPAA rated: PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language
Running time: 119 min.

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Aasif Mandvi, Max Minghella, Josh Brener, Dylan O'Brien, Tiya Sircar, Tobit Raphael, Josh Gad, Jessica Szohr, Eric Andre, Harvey Guillen
Small roles and cameos: Will Ferrell, John Goodman, Rob Riggle, B.J. Novak
Director: Shawn Levy
Screenplay: Vince Vaughn, Jared Stern
Review published June 8, 2013

The Wedding Crashers team of Vince Vaughn (Fred Claus, The Break-Up) and Owen Wilson (Cars 2, Midnight in Paris) reunite after eight years for a film that was conceived of and is co-written by Vaughn himself.  Unfortunately for fans, it's not a follow-up to that hit film except for the casting of its two main stars.  The Internship feels every bit like it's made by the same slackers that the two stars represent themselves as being within the story itself, and like their occupation of guys who hock merchandise for a living, this entire film could be said to be a nearly two-hour commercial venture meant to sell Google and a few other companies (University of Phoenix and Match.com are mentioned prominently by name) on the minds of nearly everyone in the audience.

The main premise involves two middle-aged salesmen, Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and his partner and best bud, Nick Campbell (Wilson), who lose their jobs and are forced out into the down job market only to find there's not much out there for people with their limited skills.  Nick manages to get a job selling mattresses while Billy has a more radical notion: move to the Bay Area and become interns at the so-called '#1 best place to work in the U.S.', the real-life tech corporation famous for their search engine, Google.  They're about twice the age of every other intern, vying in a rather difficult competition among them to try to secure paid jobs, and to do so, they must not only prove themselves, but also get their team of talented but socially awkward misfits in the internship program to work together as a team.

I suppose it's fitting for two older comedic actors like Vaughn and Wilson to try to sell their shtick to what will likely be a younger movie-going audience, playing two older salesmen trying to fit in with a younger tech-savvy crowd.  Just as they did in Wedding Crashers, so too do they devise to 'crash' the doors of Google's training facility with their wisecracks and ability to B.S. their way into getting whatever they want.  Like the wristwatches they try to peddle, their wares are feeling pretty old for today's modern consumers, and try as they might to make things hip and hilarious, we've seen this same routine so many times that it might be more fitting for the duo to try for jobs at America On-Line instead. 

Speaking of the word, "online", there is a scene in the film in which Billy keeps using the phrase, "on the line" instead of "online", in a way that only someone of his age would have to have been in a cryogenic slumber for the past two decades to misunderstand.  And yet we're supposed to believe that Billy was also savvy enough to know how to look for a job on the web and figure out how to apply for internship without knowing knowing this very basic phrase?  This is just one of many instances in which Vaughn just reaches way too far to try to get laughs that don't come naturally.

Most of the humor comes through the exploitation of various stereotypes, including the young Asian lad (Raphael) who is so abused both verbally and physically by his 'Tiger Mom' that he practically self-flagellates whenever he thinks he does something wrong (he rips out his eyebrow hair to punish himself.  Har har.).  There are side plots that are introduced, including a rival team led by an arrogant douchebag (Minghella, The Ides of March) who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to sink the one team that has the least legitimate shot to win the competition, while Nick also tries his hand at wooing the 30-year-old staffer named Dana (Byrne, I Give It a Year), who is so driven to succeed in her work that it allows for no time for romantic pursuits.  Strangely, even though this side story is a superfluous toss-in that has next to nothing to do with Google or the competition, their romantic comedy interplay represents the best moments of the film.

Those looking for a continuation of the audaciously vulgar spirit of Wedding Crashers will likely be disappointed by The Internship, as it is a rather tame PG-13 effort.  There is a potentially ribald scene in which the duo try to bond with their 21-year-old teammates by taking them to a strip club (one in which no clothing is taken off, and, oddly, one in which z recurring Flashdance gag neglects to capitalize on), which leads to some fairly tepid gags such as one of them (Brener, "Glory Daze") trying to pick up a stripper who is also one of the dance instructors (Szohr, Piranha) at Google, and another involving one of the young men (Raphael) continuing to dry the ejaculation in his pants under a bathroom hand dryer before going out for more lap dances.  The young woman (Sircar, Friends with Benefits) on the team is said to be into some fetishes that include bondage and cosplay, but nothing of note is done with this facet to her character.

Though not without a handful of cute moments and a few legitimately earned snorts of amusement (nothing close to a knee-slapper though), the tone is at least amiable enough to avoid outright anger for its lack of laughs.  However, pleasant though it may be, at nearly two hours in length, it does outstay its welcome a bit, especially when you consider any number of scenes that neither provide good humor nor drive forward the plot that could have easily been excised.  Not that the film would have been good enough with judicious trimming, but at least the sporadic lulls could have been less prolonged.

Even though Google reportedly were not involved in the conception of the film, and aren't in line to directly profit from ticket sales, because the film obviously got the full cooperation of Google in the making of it, whatever satirical material could have been mined from poking fun at the giant corporation's branding and image has been declawed to the point of the enterprise doubling as a recruitment film. The way they make it seem, it sure looks like a fun and problem-free place to work (free food, nap-pods, and fun team-building games and exercise classes galore), so one can only imagine the spike in applications the company will receive during this film's initial release in theaters and on video.

Still, shameless shilling notwithstanding, there's really no excuse for the lack of drive to come up with something other than the customary "slacker underdogs make good" plotline.  Perhaps for their future efforts, Vaughn and Wilson, as well as director Levy (Night at the Museum, The Pink Panther), can learn from the example of Google itself by trying to innovate with their material rather than stick to the same old ideas that were popular a decade ago and think they will always work.  In the worlds of both technology and comedy, eight years is a mighty long time to go without innovation.

 Qwipster's rating:

2013 Vince Leo