2013, 119mins, 12
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer (s): Jared Stern, Vince Vaughn
Cast includes: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella, John Goodman, Josh Brener
UK Release Date: 3rd July 2013
Remember when the teaming of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn was something to get excited about? No, me neither. Whilst both performers have impressed individually over the course of their careers (although it’s been a while), I don’t view them as some sort of dynamic duo worth frothing over, chiefly because I’m completely ambivalent toward their 2005 box-office smash “Wedding Crashers”. An overrated contemporary comedy with editorial issues up the wazoo, “Crashers” has somehow attained the mantle of a modern genre classic, a lofty status far exceeding its actual status as passable fluff. One has to ponder why it’s taken so long to rekindle the Wilson/Vaughn magic then; surely audiences in 2006 and 2007 would have been more receptive to a reunion than us curmudgeons of 2013? Irrespective that’s the year of “The Internship” a techie comedy that puts Vince and Owen through their paces as old dogs in the youthful temple of Google. If that sounds dreadful, join the club, and certainly the movie doesn’t disappoint with its cloying and rubbishy final toss of the dice, unveiling a third act of crippling nonsense. Yet, somehow, the opening segments of the vehicle actually pack a lot of entertainment value, a sort of je ne sais quoi derived from the natural and amusing interplay between the leads. It also helps that director Shawn Levy manages to keep the core of the feature incredibly likable, a big plus for a comedy with a patchy structure. It’s far from great cinema, but “The Internship” is a lot more tolerable, nay enjoyable, than I anticipated.
After being fired on the pretence their shared skillset is outdated, salesmen Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) are left stranded in a saturated job-market. Striking out in search of prospective employment, Billy stumbles upon the opportunity to undertake an unpaid internship at web conglomerate Google, coaxing a sceptical Nick along for the ride. On arrival it turns out they’re considerably older than any of their competition, quickly written off and castigated by snotty over-achiever Graham (Max Minghella) and over-worked love interest Dana (a wasted Rose Byrne). However when thrown in with a bunch of ragtag geeks, Nick and Billy’s zeal for professional life takes over, granting their younger associates a necessary dollop of mature perspective.
Wilson and Vaughn (also on co-scripting duties) immerse themselves in “The Internship” with energy and a smile, bubbling around the picture with enough motor-mouth charisma (Vaughn in particular) to imbue the product with heart. They share a neat chemistry, allowing “The Internship” to retain a warm, fuzzy core worth valuing. Around them it’s the younger cast that compliment proceedings most vocally. Max Minghella (“The Social Network”) is a venomous joy as the chief antagonist, wrapping his tongue around sarcastic put-downs like an old pro. Vaughn and Wilson are amiable from the first frame; Minghella colourfully reverses that by layering on the pantomime villainy from his own personal starting position. As a Google employee with faith in the elder statesmen, Josh Brener is unbelievably irritating, but the other components of the misfit squad are considerably more endearing. Some of them even manage to have, y’know, relatable arcs which in turn enrich Nick and Billy’s central story.
A burgeoning romance between Wilson and Byrne is ham-fisted, but elsewhere “The Internship” mostly succeeds. The screenplay actually gives the leads some funny set-pieces and dialogue to fiddle with, including an impromptu trip to a seedy dance club. Director Shawn Levy balances the sillier facets of the picture skilfully with its wider messages, allowing “The Internship” to communicate some fundamentals on personal growth and ambition satisfactorily. I mean it’s not a probing investigation of the human condition, but during the initial two acts the movie delivers identifiable flickers of soul and decent bursts of giddy PG-13 mirth. Given where my head was at going in, I consider that a result.
Of course portions of the 120 minute runtime can’t help but function as a commercial for Google, highlighting its noble manifesto and accepting corporate infrastructure. This reaches boiling point during the frustrating climax, a saccharine, predictable and largely laughter starved 30 minute period that almost sinks the entire property. I don’t begrudge “The Internship” for reaching a generic denouement of nerd victory; rather I loathed the clumsy and exploitative manner with which it arrives there. Levy showers this section with artificial fist-pump contrivances more likely to stimulate your gag reflex, and the standard of comedy drops monumentally. In the first act Will Ferrell appears in uproarious fashion as a lecherous mattress salesman. Toward the end Rob Riggle surfaces in an unfunny and garish series of punch lines involving gerontophilia. The differing quality of these separate instances provides an accurate gauge of the film’s crass last minute slide.
That said, “The Internship” definitely hits more than it misses. It’s not a massively original or determined vehicle, instead coasting affably on tangible charm and solid humour. Interestingly I felt, despite an equally lengthy duration, “The Internship” is a smoother storytelling endeavour than “Wedding Crashers”, with a central thesis that actually resonates on a wider level. That’s pretty faint praise coming from me, but in the case of this disarmingly tolerable beast, I’m surprised to be offering any praise at all.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013