Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson) are the last of a dying breed. Wining and dining, schmoozing and pimping, honest-to-goodness salesmen. That’s what they do, they push product, specifically wristwatches. If that seems like an industry that’s dying, that’s because it is. After one last attempted sale, the boys find out that their company has officially gone under and they, like so many other people, are out of work. The watch salesman is going the way of the cooper, the blacksmith, and the VCR repairman.
Out of a job and with no real prospects, Billy spends his night stumbling along Google via two-fingered typing only to discover a great opportunity to leave behind the world of sales and reach into the future. The future, of course, is Google. Specifically, an internship competition that leads to a guaranteed job with the world’s largest search engine etc. company. All the two have to do is overcome the fact that they’re both in their 40s and are stuck with a team of misfits like themselves as teammates. All they then have to do is win and beat out the pride of the world’s best universities with a little grit and determination.
Cue the old fish out of water story.
Teaming up the two stars of the hit Wedding Crashers is a pretty good idea. After all, between the two of them, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have made some really successful comedies in their time. That said, a little Vince Vaughn goes a long way, but this is a take on Vince Vaughn’s characteristic smarm that we don’t often get. He’s a salesman douche, to be sure, but he’s an optimistic salesman douche, rather than a caustic one. We know what he’s going to do throughout the movie, just like we know that Owen Wilson is going to be a charmingly rumpled goofball. We’ve seen them do this before, and it soon becomes clear that we’ve seen it before in better movies too.
The supporting players fare a little better: Aasif Mandvi does manage to steal some scenes as the icy Mr Chetty (and his scenes with Vaughn are some of the film’s better moments), I’m a fan of Dylan O’Brien in his role as the phone-obsessed cynic, and Rose Byrne gets one of the movie’s more interesting scenes as one of Google’s workaholic executives.
The actors have potential, but the script (from Vince Vaughn and Jared Stein) lets them down. The idea of two middle-aged men making an attempt to grasp technology far beyond their comprehension is reasonable enough in the youth-obsessed world of Silicon Valley, but the idea that Vince Vaughn doesn’t know the phrase is online rather than ‘on the line’ and his ignorance of Instagram’s existence seems a bit of a reach. The 80s references are nice, but it’s a standard slobs-versus-snobs college campus comedy worked into a massive commercial for how awesome it is to work at Google, and how great it is to ride your Google bike to get free lattes and sushi. The movie hits all the required notes for that subgenre, but without any real teeth.
The Internship is almost two hours long, which is also a bit excessive, but fortunately it has a lot of energy and keeps up a good pace. Director Shawn Levy is good at putting out entertaining PG-13 comedies, and while this particular film isn’t terribly funny, it’s charming enough. There’s a cuteness to the film, with a good spirit if not great execution or a lot of laughs. There are more chuckles and smiles than guffaws. Perhaps it’s not mean-spirited enough, which is rare for a comedy coming out in 2013.
But that’s the issue with the film. It’s 2013, but it feels like this movie would have been more plausible in 2005. Maybe this is an idea that’s bounced around for awhile in Vince Vaughn’s head, it just took this long for Google to give them the needed cooperation. As it stands, this is a film that feels old and tired, in spite of the novelty of its setting.
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