The Internship: Film Review

The Internship Vaughn Wilson - H 2013
Twentieth Century Fox

The Internship Vaughn Wilson - H 2013

A good premise and a good cast flounder in search of a wittier script.

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite in this comedy about a couple of old-time salesmen trying to reinvent themselves at Google.

There are a lot of good comic possibilities lurking in Shawn Levy’s new movie, The Internship, but most of them never quite break the surface of this mild, occasionally likable romp that plays more like a love letter to Google. The company’s headquarters is the main setting for this vehicle for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, who starred in the 2005 box office smash Wedding Crashers. Their new movie won’t match the grosses of that raunchy lark, but the reunion of the two stars could stir decent business, at least for a couple of weeks. Unlike that earlier farce, this one is rated PG-13 and seems to be aimed at a slightly older, more literate audience. But will they turn out to see a movie marketed to young party animals?

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 At the start of the movie, Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) lose their jobs selling watches when their boss (John Goodman) informs them that watches have become obsolete in a world where kids use their smart phones to check the time. Billy and Nick are old-fashioned salesmen whose livelihood is threatened by a shrinking economy and a brand new technological universe. For reasons that are never made entirely convincing, they decide to apply to an internship program, which may lead to permanent jobs at Google. There they find themselves competing with a bunch of much younger applicants who are far more technically savvy than these two “dinosaurs,” as their retiring boss calls them. But when they land at Google headquarters for the summer, their worldliness appeals to their geeky young competitors, so we surmise that the two generations may be able to help each other.

Those of us who are a bit intimidated by new technology will be tickled by the premise, but the movie might have drawn a lot more laughter from the notion of Luddites trying to navigate new digital domains. In one scene, Vaughn’s Billy tries to impress his young colleagues by talking about going “on the line” rather than online, but that’s one of the only effective jokes about old-school salesmen trying to master a whole new lingo. All the applicants are divided into teams, and Nick and Billy join a group of computer nerds to compete for a handful of jobs, but they have to match wits with much more savvy techies. Although the odds are against them, it isn’t hard to guess the outcome of the contest.

Predictability is not the only problem with the script, which was written by Vaughn and Jared Stern. The two stars present an amusing physical contrast, but their characters aren’t very sharply differentiated. Both of them are fast-talking, confident hustlers. It would have been more satisfying if they had more distinctive personalities. The same lack of differentiation applies to the nerdy members of their team. They’re all sheltered whiz kids with few social skills. We long for richer characterizations.

The actors do what they can to supply the texture missing from the script. Vaughn and Wilson riff together with pleasing professionalism. Levy has recruited a number of talented newcomers to play the members of Nick and Billy’s team. Dylan O’Brien is the cynical one, Josh Brener is the eager beaver, and Tobit Raphael is the brainy Asian kid with the Tiger Mom.  Although these characters are one-dimensional, the actors nail their parts expertly. Max Minghella gives a smooth performance as the villain of the piece, the arrogant Brit who seems to be the favorite to defeat our heroes. In a rare role that allows her to use her native Australian accent, Rose Byrne makes a neat romantic foil for Wilson. Goodman, Will Ferrell, and a few others turn in canny cameo performances.

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Art directors skillfully re-create the Google campus, though the company’s cooperation seems to have given an antiseptic sheen to much of the film. While comedies are meant to move toward a sunny conclusion, the best ones have a few more unpredictable twists than this by-the-numbers confection. The hucksters and the nerds bond and help each other to grow. The message is unobjectionable, but the storytelling is unimaginative. Losers win the prize, squabbling lovers come together, and this overlong opus finally reaches a clever end-credit sequence that is the highlight of the picture.

Opens: Friday, June 7 (20th Century Fox)

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella, Aasif Mandvi, Josh Brener, Dylan O’Brien, Tiya Sircar, Tobit Raphael, Josh Gad

Director: Shawn Levy

Screenwriters: Vince Vaughn, Jared Stern

Story by: Vince Vaughn

Producers: Vince Vaughn, Shawn Levy

Executive producers: Arnon Milchan, Dan Levine, Josh McLaglen, Mary McLaglen, Sandra J. Smith, Scott Stuber

Director of photography: Jonathan Brown

Production designer: Tom Meyer

Music: Christophe Beck

Costume designer: Leesa Evans

Editor: Dean Zimmerman

Rated PG-13, 119 minutes