What’s become of Vince Vaughn? Our great, lumbering, huckster motormouth, whose inspired rat-a-tat-tat stream-of-consciousness verbal diarrhea propelled hits like The Wedding Crashers and Swingers? I sincerely miss that Vaughn, because there’s little endearing about watching him transform into a hollow corporate shill. As if the 2012 alien invader Costco commercial The Watch wasn’t bad enough, he’s back with The Internship, a weary “comic” tribute to the infinite wonders of Google. And he’s even dragged along his wedding crashing buddy Owen Wilson for company! Shameless.
Co-written and produced by the lanky star, The Internship is a stale trudge through the dustiest tropes in Comedy Land. Both a fish-out-of-water yarn and an Animal House-style Nerds vs. Jocks underdog story, the film casts Vaughn and Wilson as over-confident salesmen who find themselves tossed out on their asses after their small-time outfit collapses. Computer-illiterate and without job skills, the duo inexplicably snag intern spots at almighty Google after one wildly disastrous video conference interview. Assigned to a group with four other misfits — the cynical kid who hates everything (Dylan O’Brien), the hyper-anxious Asian boy with severe mommy issues (Tobit Raphael), the white nerd who acts gangsta (Josh Brener) and the sexy girl who’s more innocent than she acts (Tiya Sircar) — the guys must undergo a grueling series of team challenges (Quidditch included) with only a precious handful of jobs awaiting the champions.
The dusty screenplay for The Internship, co-written by Jared Stern, feels a decade old (neither lead understands the term “online”) and has zero surprises up its sleeves as it lazily meanders through clichés we’ve seen done better elsewhere. The cute-but-icy female romantic interest (Rose Byrne) who refuses to date Wilson? A life-changing trip to a strip club where the most introverted team-member goes drunken loco? How about a huge public comeuppance for our heroes’ cartoonishly sadistic nemesis (Max Minghella)?
In clever hands, these chestnuts might be more effective, however, under the eye of directorial gun-for-hire Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Real Steel), The Internship has no energy, no sense of urgency. It’s as safe and lethargically middle-of-the-road stupid as a Happy Madison production, only with 10 times the product placement. Incessant Google business aside – all of the company’s accomplishments is exhaustively catalogued – the film also crowbars in multiple awkward X-Men references. Why, you ask? Probably because the studio, 20th Century Fox, is releasing The Wolverine next month (Huzza for cross-promotion!).
Damned as the whole enterprise is, Vaughn and Wilson are still an engaging team and manage some amusing riffing. The picture is not devoid of very mild laughs (Wilson’s date with Byrne features some fun banter, and Vaughn’s countless Flashdance metaphors earn smiles). Yet, it’d likely be more entertaining to watch two hours of these actors improv-ing in front of a sheet than to sit through this crass, opportunistic exercise in brand-brainwashing. It’s a criminal waste of time, for the talent and the audience. In fact, The Internship is so dumbly condescending in its intentions that you may even – crazy as it sounds – find yourself debating whether to give Bing another chance.
By Cam Smith