Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Internship

Directed by Shawn Levy.
2013. Rated PG-13, 119 minutes.
Max Minghella
Josh Brener
Dylan O'Brien
Tiya Sircar
Tobit Raphael
Jessica Szohr

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are luxury watch salesmen that work as a team, because salesmen aren't a bunch of heartless cutthroats. It's okay for me to say that, I was in sales for five years. While I'm at it, let's address me going with the actors' real names instead of their characters' monikers. It's something I almost never do. However, let's keep it real. This is the same Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson we always get. 'Nuff said on that front. Turns out, the company they peddle time pieces for has abruptly shut down. A few nights later, Vaughn is job surfing online when he decides to google "google." Bada-boom, bada-bing, he and Wilson are now part of a highly competitive internship program on the campus of the search engine giant. The winning team of interns will earn full-time gigs. Of course, our heroes have no tech experience at all. Wilson doesn't seem able to turn on a computer. Vaughn can surf the web, but is pretty computer illiterate, himself. Of course, they wind up on a team of misfits. A really long commercial ensues.

If you've seen the trailer for The Internship then you know I'm not kidding about this being a commercial. Hell, the trailer is essentially a commercial for the commercial. So how do they flesh things out? We start with a live-action version of Monsters University. No, I'm serious. Same basic plot, same stock characters. Swap out John Goodman and Billy Crystal for Vaughn and Wilson, respectively. Add a few cuss words, a love interest for Wilson, a scene in a strip club, slap the Google logo all over everything, have everyone speak of the company with great reverence, and voila!

You just want to know if it's funny, right? In spots. Vaughn does his usual fast-talker schtick while Wilson does his normal routine. If you find either or both of these guys funny then you'll find things to make you laugh, potentially lots of things. It helps if you're in their general age group. Lots of the jokes center on the generation gap between them and their fellow interns. When the team is given a task, our heroes start trying to talk their way through it, regardless of whether that's a useful thing to do, and make lots of reference to 80s pop culture. One reference, far older than any of those is one I found most interesting. At one point, Wilson breaks into a paraphrased and truncated rendition of the legendary Langston Hughes poem "A Dream Deferred." The kids don't get this or most references and go about actually trying to solve the problem. Rinse. Repeat. The flip side of this is that neither Vaughn or Wilson has any clue about computers nor current pop culture. Sort of. For instance, a big gag involves the guys being sent on a wild goose chase to find Professor Charles Xavier. I get that they didn't immediately recognize the name as being leader of the X-Men. I even get that the joke can go on for a moment while they catch up. However, this isn't something you have to be young and hip to know. Even if we ignore the fact that X-Men was one of the country's most popular comic books right when these guys were right in the target audience for such things, and had a Saturday morning cartoon, we still know something impossible to overlook. They have been making X-Men movies for more than a decade and unless I'm mistaken, all of them have taken in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. These movies have also shown up all over TV numerous times. Finally, our "old" guys know something far younger in terms of being a pop culture phenomenon, The Hunger Games. To be fair, as full of holes as the logic for this scene is, it is one of their funnier bits.

The rest of the cast is filled out with characters we've all seen before in a number of movies. Remember how much I said this resembles Monsters University? Yeah, same characters here, pretty much. We have the cocky and arrogant bully as our bad guy in the competition. We also have the unforgiving authority figure presiding over the whole thing. Just about everyone else is one form of geek or another. Therefore, the story feels like a by-the-numbers job that fails to add its own twist to the proceedings. It just tries to float by on the charm of the two lead characters. They do an amiable job, but can't really make it anything special. It is occasionally funny, breezes by without causing us to think, and just isn't anywhere near as good as Monsters University at doing essentially the same thing.

1 comment:

  1. Well you were right, we are on opposite sides of this one. How do you propose we settle this? Respectful debate or a gunfight in the town square at noon? I vote gunfight. But in all seriousness, even though I haven't watched Monsters University, I do agree that this film has a host of stock characters and even by-the-numbers scenarios. The point where I disagree is on Vaughn and Wilson's charm not being enough. Their brand of comedy is what makes this movie. It's intelligent humour with a genuine feel to it. I loved how the characters win you over and I have a real softspot for movies about misfits. It might contain the same ingredients as others before it, some are even cooked the same way but the infusion of Vaughn and Wilson are what make it a unique dish.