‘The Internship’ is, at best, mildly charming while boasting an excess of product placement

the internship poster

The Internship

Directed by Shawn Levy

Written by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern

USA, 2013

The Internship is a movie very much like its stars, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson: it tries too hard to be your friend, it doesn’t know when to quit, and it believes that being slick and shiny is all that matters. But somehow, amazingly, it’s also got flashes of charm and wit, enough so that you almost—not quite—can forgive it its trespasses. Vaughn and Wilson are trying, most likely, to revive that sly, naughty sense of fun they brought to the 2005 raunchfest Wedding Crashers, and though The Internship doesn’t come close, there are points at which it acquits itself adequately well.

Vaughn and Wilson play lifelong best friends who are also watch salesmen living each moment as if it’s their last. And it turns out, their tenure selling time is over quicker than they thought, as their boss (John Goodman, doing very little with very little) closes shop and leaves them stranded. But soon, Vaughn’s blue-sky dreamer finagles them an interview for an internship at Google. You know, Google? That search engine that everyone on the planet uses or is, at least, extremely familiar with? Well, you may not have heard of it, but by the end of The Internship, its logo will be emblazoned in your brain matter thanks to product placement so in-your-face and excessive that it’s hard not to laugh at the sheer gall of the corporate tie-ins. Anyway, Vaughn and Wilson go to Google–whose main campus is, surprisingly, super-duper awesome–for a summer internship challenge, in which they and nearly 100 college students are split into teams to fight for only five future jobs at the tech giant. Of course, the lead duo (they have character names, but really, they’re playing the same bundle of traits here that they’ve always played in mainstream comedies) get thrown in with the outcasts. But in a shocking turn of events, they’re able to inspire their teammates to get a fighting chance at those lucrative Google positions.

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The Internship, first and foremost, falls into the same pit that a lot of modern comedies have stumbled into, a foolhardy notion that more is more. As with Wedding Crashers, this movie tops out at 119 minutes and never justifies such bloat. The story, written by Vaughn and Jared Stern, hits plenty of familiar beats, of course. Vaughn’s character is typified early on as being so irresponsible that he’s the sole source of his problems, always screwing up the good things instead of leaving well enough alone. So it is not surprising that later in the film, just when it looks like he’s hit a streak of quality at Google, he’ll be reminded of his past faults–by the odious nerdy villain, played by Max Minghella–and convince himself that he’s just not Google material. (Or that he doesn’t have “Googliness,” an actual word uttered in this movie.) And Wilson, a wee bit closer to the straight-man role, gets a fairly rote romance with a longtime Google employee played by Rose Byrne. The familiarity is not, automatically, the problem. It’s that so many of the scenes here go on a few minutes too long, anchored by the outsized fast-paced delivery from both leads. Neither man, in a handful of scenes, takes a breath and director Shawn Levy is content to just let things go on, long past a scene’s natural conclusion.

The Internship is most winning in the later interactions between Vaughn, Wilson, and the rest of their Google team. The characterizations of these far smarter, younger people is too on-the-nose sometimes, but what is most striking, certainly compared to other recent mainstream comedies like Identity Thief, is that the goal for the team is equally about being more sincere and open to each other, eschewing mean-spiritedness, as it is to get a job at Google. And even from the start, Vaughn and Wilson are almost comically kind and gentle to everyone around them, as if they’re actively trying to wipe away past memories of their horndog obnoxiousness. When The Internship isn’t funny—and it rarely ever achieves laugh-out-loud hilarity—it’s nice enough to be moderately charming.

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But charm does only get you so far; the last 20 minutes are kind of a shambles. It doesn’t help that one of the big comic hooks in the climax is a JibJab video, which is roughly the nadir of modern humor. The Internship is as much an attempt to re-sell Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson to a younger audience as it is to ingratiate these movers and shakers into a fast-moving world of online innovation and technology. Its only serious weapon is a friendliness offensive, as the actors hope to disarm us by being only so knowledgeable about the way the world works in 2013. The humor is light, the product placement laughably egregious (especially since, really, who among us still needs to be convinced of the value of Google?), and the details are even lighter than the laughs. (The specifics of what people do at Google are extraordinarily, suspiciously vague.) But The Internship makes do with an excess of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson doing what they do best, talking so fast and so long they wear you down to smiling, if only because they’ve exhausted you down to a nub.

— Josh Spiegel




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