The Internship

2013, Movie, PG-13, 119 mins

Review

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In The Internship, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play two aging, out-of-work salesmen who strive to reinvent themselves after landing coveted internships at Google. In real life, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are two aging comic actors whose arid attempt to recapture their past glory is so painfully transparent that they should have just been honest and called this aggressively mediocre, slavishly formulaic fish-out-of-water comedy what it really is -- Google Crashers.

Billy (Vaughn) and his best friend Nick (Wilson) are having a bad day. Committed salesmen with a talent for charming clients, they’re attempting to sell a new line of watches to a loyal customer when he informs them that their company has gone belly-up. As if hearing such important news secondhand wasn’t bad enough, Billy finds himself sitting in an empty house after his girlfriend walks out on him, and Nick resorts to selling mattresses for his demented brother-in-law. But just when it seems like they’ve hit rock bottom, Billy goes online to look for a job and gets the bright idea to carve out a new career path in the tech industry by interning at Google. Of course, he wouldn’t think about leaving his old pal Nick behind, and after an awkward webcam interview, the pair find themselves in sunny San Francisco for a summer internship. Although the majority of their fellow interns are half their age, the two ambitious dinosaurs relish the opportunity to learn and grow. Unfortunately, some of their younger peers aren’t so accepting, and as the new crop of interns split into groups for a series of challenges, Billy and Nick get stuck in the misfit crew led by the brainy but nervous Lile (Josh Brener). At the end of the summer, the group that has completed the most challenges successfully will earn the ultimate prize -- a job at the world’s largest Internet innovator. Meanwhile, as Nick falls for a pretty Google workaholic named Dana (Rose Byrne), ambitious young corporate-ladder climber Graham (Max Minghella) remains determined to snag the job for himself, and does his best to humiliate and Billy and Nick at every turn.

It’s strange that a movie could feel at once desperate and lazy, but somehow that’s precisely the balance that co-writers Vaughn and Jared Stern (Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The Watch) manage to strike while stuffing their cloyingly feel-good script with embarrassingly stereotypical characters (oversexed nerd girl, angry young man, brilliant Asian with strict parents, nerdy guy who just needs a little confidence) and predictable scenarios ripped straight from Screenwriting 101. From the underdog plot mechanics to the hard-to-get love interest and the dull, one-dimensional villain with a bad accent, The Internship shows such a cringe-worthy lack of chemistry and inspiration that it’s hard to believe we’re watching a reunion of the stars featured in one of the 2000s’ biggest comedy hits. Likewise, when you’re following one of the previous decades’ most popular R-rated comedies with watered-down PG-13 tripe, it’s probably best not to call attention to that fact by setting a key scene in a strip club where all of the dancers remain suspiciously clothed. Those kinds of compromises are just too pronounced to go unnoticed.

With its paint-by-numbers screenplay, the film offers testament to the talents of those scribes who work thanklessly behind the scenes while the preening stars grow so delusional about their own abilities that they think they can simply crank out a hit comedy and take all the credit. At this point, Vaughn’s motormouthed brand of humor has gotten so much mileage one’s tempted to drop a dipstick down his throat to see what kind of putrid gunk lurks in the depths, and with the constant Flashdance references here, his retro-obsessed comic rants feel as dated as the moth-ravaged leotard hanging in your mom’s closet. Perhaps we could have swallowed this recycled schtick a bit easier had director Shawn Levy injected some energy into the proceedings, but his flaccid direction only draws unwanted attention to the film’s many shortcomings.

There’s a certain comfort in reliving our past glories; it’s when we get stuck trying to repeat them that we pass up our opportunity to grow. Much like their characters in the movie, Vaughn and Wilson seem determined to assert their relevance amidst a shifting tide of comedy and a new crop of fresh-faced talents like the ubiquitous Apatow crew. If only the two stars had taken a few more cues from their innovative co-star Google, perhaps they could have accomplished that goal without resorting to methods that make them look as irrelevant as their characters in The Internship feel. leave a comment --Jason Buchanan

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