In The Internship, director Shawn Levy (Reel Steel) follows former businessmen Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson) who find their sales skills suddenly lacking in the wake of the digital age. After their employer shuts down the company, the pair struggle to find full-time work but successfully talk their way into highly coveted internships at Google. Unfortunately, limited positions are available at the Internet services powerhouse, so McMahon and Campbell must compete with teams of tech-savvy college students who are eager to get their careers off the ground.
However, as the aging second-profession interns form unexpected friendships and gain experience in the fast-paced world of Google, they come to realize the only way to standout amidst a crowd of online savants is to find a balance between old school business acumen and out-of-the-box digital savvy.
Sadly, the same attempt at updating traditional ideas for appreciation in the modern era doesn’t work as well for The Internship movie itself – especially since the story comes across as somewhat dated. Instead, the film is a derivative fish-out-of water setup with predictable buddy comedy plot beats – force fit into fast-paced Internet industry culture. The narrative and comedy offer few surprises, with a number of lowbrow and/or excessive moments (as well as heavy-handed life lesson attempts) that illicit more eye rolls than laughs or dramatic insight. The success of Vaughn and Wilson’s Wedding Crashers provides incentive for viewers to expect good things from The Internship, but it is actually the young cast (portraying the pair’s intern friends) that makes the movie forgivable instead of entirely forgettable.
As stated, the plot is a bare bones “new kid on the block” framework that adheres very closely to the tropes in other “underdog” and “outsider” storylines – full of the same ups and downs viewers will have seen ad nauseum in similar projects. The familiar developments of the story are only slightly freshened up by carefully managed Google brand synergy – which is a mixed bag of fun nods to the real life Googleplex compound and on-the-nose commentary about the company and its larger goals (which are awkwardly forced into the mix at ill-fitting moments). Google is well known for its non-traditional approach to employment and is a suitable setting for The Internship; that said, at times, the movie does a poor job of balancing the quirks of Google with worthwhile development in the main character journey.
In fact, it takes awhile for Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) to even become likable protagonists – since the movie pigeonholes them early on as over-the-top (and even manipulative) underachievers. While it’ll be easy for viewers to sympathize with their sudden job loss, it takes a long time for McMahon and Campbell to actually become empathetic. From the moment of their introduction, The Internship positions the pair as clueless and self-absorbed – through forced and unfunny gags that fail to offer interesting character insight or worthwhile laughs. Still, as the story progresses, and the two characters interact with Google employees and fellow “Nooglers,” Levy eases up on cartoony jokes in favor of subtle and humorous character interactions that (though uninventive) can be entertaining and even endearing.
As mentioned, a cast of likable supporting characters elevates the otherwise formulaic comedy – delivering competent juxtapositions for Vaughn/Wilson and the college-aged intern friends. Google Executive Dana (Rose Byrne) and Intern Program Head Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi) contribute adequate turns as key industry veterans driving the story, but it’s Nooglers Stuart (Dylan O’Brien) and Neha (Tiya Sircar) that provide the most interesting foils to the wearing Vaughn and Wilson dynamic, offering entertaining (and heartfelt) moments – even if their respective characters are based on thin cliches. Fellow team members Lyle (Josh Brener) and Yo-Yo Santos (Tobit Raphael) aren’t given quite as much to do, but in combination with the rest of the group, they help transition McMahon and Campbell from goofy clowns to thoughtful leaders.
Ultimately, that transition prevents the film from becoming a total throwaway. Despite a lot of questionable choices (including excessive appearances by Will Ferrell and Rob Riggle) and several abandoned plot threads, The Internship actually manages to pull most of its flailing ideas full circle – resulting in a trite and unsurprising but still competent finale. Yet, few of the movie’s larger messages about life, work, and relationships will stick with audiences post-viewing – as most of them are either too specific for mainstream application or too heavy-handed to genuinely inspire. It’s clear that The Internship was striving to be more profound than the final onscreen film suggests – meaning that, in spite of its intent, potential moviegoers will have to settle for an blend of semi-amusing and outright flat scenes instead of a balanced comedy that is equal parts heart and humor.
Despite efforts to say something interesting about life in the digital age, The Internship falls short of being a must-see comedy – let alone a thought-provoking opportunity for social commentary. Moviegoers who enjoy Vaughn and Wilson (or work in the tech industry) might find more enjoyment in the film than casual viewers, but the movie is mostly a formulaic buddy comedy masking familiar plot beats with flashy digital age one-liners. It’s a harmless experience with a handful of laughs and a batch of likable young actors but The Internship fails to deliver the innovation and creativity necessary for “Googliness.” Instead, The Internship is more akin to Yahoo! – a functional Plan B when nothing better is available.
If you’re still on the fence about The Internship, check out the trailer below:
The Internship runs 119 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language. Now playing in theaters.
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.