Film Review – The Internship
For almost a decade, filmgoers have waited for the reteaming of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Wedding Crashers has one of the highest domestic grosses for a “Frat Pack” film, cracking over $200 million at the box office. The duo is such a hot commodity that they won CinemaCon’s Comedy Duo of the Year Award prior to their new film, The Internship, even coming out.
Not veering too far away from the actors’ previous path to success, The Internship follows the exact same formula as Wedding Crashers. Two guys who aren’t ready to grow up find themselves in a fish out of water situation, have their beliefs challenged, rise to the occasion, and come out as better people at the end. It plays very close to the template of the hero’s journey. I hope you liked it the last time around, because this is almost entirely the same—plus Google and minus Isla Fisher. The plot never gets too dramatic, and the outcome never really feels in danger, but once again Vaughn and Wilson make the journey enjoyable. They are making cinematic comfort food here.
If you aren’t particular familiar with Google’s full catalog of products, you will be by the end of this movie. While I respect the fact that Google was so willing to be in on the joke, I’m not sure there has ever been more product placement in the history of film. The brand Google or one of their projects (Gmail, Google Wallet, Google Search, Google Maps, Android, to name a few) is hammered on the audience constantly throughout the movie. Jokes are made about them, plot lines are constructed around them, and a whole slew of terminology is created (“Noogler” and “Googly,” for example). The entire plot is literally a huge pat on the back, as it is about a group of people fighting to work at Google because it is such an awesome place that pays you a fortune and has everything your heart desires. Google comes off as a mythical place, like the land of Oz.
The issue everyone wondered about going into the movie is whether Vaughn and Wilson could recreate the humor of their last pairing, and while the film is funny, it is not Wedding Crashers. There is no question that the two have a fun chemistry, but it is hard to continue doing the same arrested development comedy that they have done for over a decade now and keep it fresh. The film has a lot of laughs, nothing quite as belly-achy as you’d hope, but it is pretty consistently funny. It did feel like The Internship has a bit more heart, though, whereas Wedding Crashers purely focused on the evolution of the main characters. They are mentors here…dispelling the gospel of Flashdance to a new generation of young people.
The issue that really is on point, though, are the allusions to Vaughn and Wilson getting older. They can no longer play twentysomethings, and it was a wise move to use that as the basis for a lot of the film’s jokes. The characters’ taste in music, their movie references, their knowledge of computers are all very dated. It provides both a line for humor as well as an avenue to allow audience members who also might not be particularly knowledgeable about computers to connect with the movie as they watch Vaughn’s and Wilson’s characters grow. Seeing them in “mentor” roles is one of the most engaging parts of the story…watching them bring their team members (Josh Brener, Dylan O’Brien, Tiya Sircar, Tobit Raphael) out of their shells and introduce them to life outside of the Google campus is quite sweet, and provides a stark contrast to the self-centered focus their characters usually have.
The biggest disappointment for me was the use of Rose Byrne. She is an incredibly funny actress, and yet she wasn’t given an opportunity to do much of anything, let alone be funny. Her existence is almost entirely to be Owen Wilson’s love interest. In fact, with the exception of one character, none of the women in the movie really have any purpose beyond being a love interest. Certainly the computer industry is a heavily male-dominated arena, but there are other female actors in the movie—they just aren’t given anything. I guess in some ways it is progressive, since the filmmakers decided against making the love stories a significant part of the plot, but these story points do feel tacked on just to make the film more marketable, rather than adding any real value.
The Internship is not going to be the box office hit that Wedding Crashers was, and it isn’t going to start a resurgence of man-child movies. I’m glad to see Vaughn and Wilson are not quite the same this time around; it gives me hope for how they might evolve in the future. While they won’t be a cultural touchstone this time, the film does have heart, and that will take you a long way. There will always be a place for feel-good movies.
Final Grade: B-