Given recent controversies, it seems pretty ironic for a comedy to focus on a big tech company’s reputation as an employer, innovator, and service provider. The Internship, the new movie starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson plays with Google’s image as an employee-friendly and intense workplace while also attempting to critique reliance on technology to connect people with information.
The Internship centers on two watch salesmen put out of a job because no one wears a watch anymore. Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn) is the smooth talker and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson) seems to be the brains of the operation. When his longtime girlfriend dumps him after their house goes into foreclosure, Billy dreams big and gets Nick and himself an interview for Google’s summer internship. Despite their total lack of qualifications, Billy and Nick manage to think outside the box just enough to get into the program. Once at Google, the interns are split into teams to compete in a series of challenges and seminars. The winning team will be the only interns guaranteed a job after the summer ends. Naturally, none of the 20 year-old geniuses want to team up with the dumb old guys, so Nick and Billy end up on a team of misfits: grumpy Stuart (Dylan O-Brien), sassy Neha (Tiya Sircar), neurotic and passive Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael), and their nerdy leader, Google employee Lyle (Josh Brener). While facing torture from cocky fellow-intern Graham Hawtrey (Max Minghella) and the abrasive Internship Director Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi). Nick and Billy have to win over their team, learn to change, and keep up with the other interns. Meanwhile, Nick tries to woo Dana (Rose Byrne), a straight-laced Google employee.
There are plenty of good parts to The Internship. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson still have the chemistry that made Wedding Crashers a hit. Their particular brand of the buddy comedy works well for the film’s plot and is often its saving grace. There’s a lot of charm in the way the 40-something salesmen alternate between being out of the loop dummies and bearers of life lessons. For example, when the interns have to challenge each other in Quidditch, Billy and Nick have no idea what anyone’s talking about but they know sports and are able to rally their team. I was especially tickled that Billy’s go-to metaphor was not some macho sports reference, but rather the lesson of perseverance from Flashdance. The core message that 20-somethings need to look up from their gadgets and take in more of what life holds. Furthermore, the performances given by the younger actors gel will Vaughn and Wilson so that the ensemble functions as a loveable motley crew showcasing young talent and diverse actors, even if the characters sometimes slip into stereotypes.
Conversely, these good parts are strung together in a plot that dawdles along somewhat aimlessly. So much of the film relies on the chemistry of the actors and Google’s reputation as an employer that rather than really selling the “googlieness” key to the plot, the parts seem somewhat disconnected. For example, the love story between Nick and Dana is kind of cute on its own and has the potential to connect with the larger theme of experiencing more of life, but it mostly feels tossed in, logistically disconnected from Nick’s evolving relationship with Billy and the other interns. Additionally, the villain of the story, Graham, is so entirely a stock bad guy that he detracts from the overall representation of generational difference. Rather than represent a college student who is blinded by his own arrogance but also connects to the other interns, Graham is just hyperbolically mean and pretentious.
The Internship is generally amiable and sometimes charming, but mostly it limps along like the two salesmen at its heart. I rate it 2.5/5 stars. It’s been a pretty mediocre year for movies so far.
The Internship was written by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern and directed by Shawn Levy. It runs 119 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language.