It starts promisingly enough. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are in a convertible, cruising to a highly important business dinner, chattering away incessantly, and alternating between their brand of fast-talking bullshit and slightly outdated cultural references. It feels familiar (because it is), but it also feels funny and zippy and like a very fine start to the long-desired follow-up to the duo’s wildly popular Wedding Crashers. It goes downhill quite quickly. The boys may be back at their old confidence game – but whereas they spent the vast majority of Wedding Crashers pulling off gags they were well suited for, Shawn Levy’s The Internship is about what happens when your confidence doesn’t match your skill set (in the least).
Of course, the highly important business dinner doesn’t pan out – Vaughn’s Billy and Wilson’s Nick are a working team who have long squeezed direct sales for John Goodman’s old school joint, and such organizations just aren’t cutting it anymore – and the two are tossed out on their collective asses. Jobless, penniless, and skill-less, the two come up with a harebrained scheme to enter the modern market in a big way – by lying about their qualifications to land a pair of highly competitive internships at Google. Unbelievably enough, they get the gigs and soon ship out for sunny California and the veritable paradise that is Google (sick of hearing about Google yet? Imagine how you’ll feel after two hours of Google chatter).
Maligned by apparent intern extraordinaire Graham (Max Minghella, a villain simply because the film needs one), the pair are soon saddled (or perhaps it’s the other way around) with a team of cookie-cutter misfits: the Asian kid with the hardass mom, the pretty geek girl who feels the need to constantly reaffirm both her sexuality and intelligence, the cute dork with his nose constantly buried in his cell phone (if there’s any other brand that’s more unavoidably present in The Internship, it’s Android), and a Google employee manager who speaks almost exclusively in hip hop patois and sounds totally wack in the process. The team is tasked with a summer filled with various feats of Google strength (tests of “Googleyness,” as it were), from uncovering programming bugs to playing Quidditch. The winning team is guaranteed jobs at Google, the losers get to go home at the end of the summer with a fluffed-up resume. The boys don’t get the majority of their tasks in the slightest, but they continue to think they can bluff their way through the process – and, weirdly enough, they do.
While The Internship arrives with a plot that seems ripe for major disruptions – let’s remember, Billy and Nick applied for one of the country’s most competitive internships as University of Phoenix students with fake majors who are very clearly not actual scholars, actual college seniors, and or actually tech-inclined – but nothing is ever derailed in any kind of realistic manner. The film is also littered with seemingly essential plot points that go nowhere or, worse yet, never show up again. Vaughn’s girlfriend (played by Joanna Garcia, the character shows up just long enough to leave him after he loses his sales job) doesn’t came back to him, a first day seminar that firmly instructs against interoffice relationships never endangers a budding romance between Nick and Rose Byrne’s senior Google employee Dana, and – again – the boys are never in danger of getting into any kind of trouble for their University of Phoenix lie.
While the entire thing feels like an advertisement for working at Google (where nothing bad can happen, even if you’re a liar!), the search engine giant will likely find itself inundated with applications by dumb bunnies that think that lying about their collegiate education and intentions don’t necessarily preclude them from getting a gig at the country’s most desirable corporate environment. Hyperbole? Probably, but The Internship is such a bizarrely hyperbolic outing that it’s hard to shake it when considering the final product.
Vaughn and Wilson still possess great chemistry, but Vaughn’s fast-talking shtick is beginning to wear thin (when their teammate Tiya Sircar sagely mentions that they just talk a bunch of nonsense that gets in the way of real work, it’s one of the few doses of reality in the whole production) and Wilson’s scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold scam is long past its expiration date (and it seems almost impossible that even he’d be able to crack the façade of extreme Byrne’s ice queen). The Internship doesn’t have even half the charm and wit of Wedding Crashers, and its incessant and shockingly unguarded shilling of Google turns an uninspired and unfunny film into an insulting one.
The Upside: Vaughn and Wilson’s chemistry, a lively supporting cast, a plotline that could have gone somewhere (is that really an upside?).
The Downside: It’s far too long to hold any real laughs, there aren’t that many laughs to begin with, script is littered with details that never go anywhere, poorly drawn supporting characters, is essentially one giant advertisement for how Google is (and doesn’t even bother trying to hide it).
On the Side: It’s the first film to use the 21st Century Fox corporate branding.