Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite in a movie about two talented salesmen who, finding themselves out of a job, elect to reinvent themselves and apply for careers at Google. Co-written and produced by Vaughn, The Internship contains plenty of dated gags about Skype and Instagram, but not much in the way of bona fide humor. This movie is the cinematic equivalent of your Luddite uncle adding you on Facebook and sending you a stream of LOLCats pictures.
As the movie begins we’re introduced to Billy and Nick, two sales reps who are clearly brilliant at what they do. They meet up with a valuable client and proceed to wine and dine him. After the duo has the businessman eating out of their hand, they drop a sales pitch on him only to learn that their company has gone out of business. They return to their office the next day where they’re belittled by their ex-boss and cast out into the doldrums of U.S. economy. Hilarious!
Our protagonists may be down but not out, however, because Billy signs the two up for an unpaid internship at Google. Why Google? I honestly have no idea. By their own admission, these guys know nothing about technology, and their work experience all involves face-to-face networking. These guys would fit in perfectly as Washington D.C. lobbyists or consultants for an advertising agency, but I suppose taking that approach would undermine the fish-out-of-water angle Vince Vaugh and director Shawn Levy are going for here.
So the two middle-aged frat boys bullshit their way into a prestigious internship that could possibly lead to a full time job with one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Then the funny drains right out of the movie. The Internship attempts to mine humor from how comically inappropriate these two guys are for Google, but it doesn’t work.
Every other gag involves Billy and Nick essentially being pissed upon by a group of smarmy geniuses, but it’s not funny. Billy and Nick have no real character flaws. Yes, they’re Luddites, but they’re capable, relentlessly positive, and kind to everyone. It also doesn’t help that Vaughn and Wilson come across as two of the more likable, down-to-earth actors in Hollywood. Watching these guys get relentlessly mocked for their lack of tech-savvy isn’t funny, it’s depressing.
The original intent of the filmmakers may have been to mimic the awkward humor of Larry David or Ricky Gervais, but those comedians write characters that essentially dig their own graves. Nick and Billy, on the other hand, are consistently singled out by a group of bullies for no clear reason.
I’m surprised Google gave The Internship its endorsement, because this movie makes the employees and would-be employees of the company look like raging assholes. Everyone at Google is depicted as condescending, smug, socially awkward, or some combination of the three. Yes, our two heroes begin to rub off on everyone, but that simply leaves the impression that if it weren’t Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn coming in and changing the corporate culture, Google would simply remain a company of dickwads.
As a result, there’s no one to root for in this movie except Billy and Nick, and sadly enough, their detractors are right—there’s no place for these guys at a company like Google. They’re not math geniuses and they can’t write code—what exactly are they supposed to do for a massive tech company?
The movie offers a tacked-on third act in which our two heroes buckle down, learn everything they need to know, and gain jobs with the company, but it’s disingenuous. The flick makes it abundantly clear that these guys have no background in technology, and it’s impossible to absorb that amount of knowledge over the course of a summer internship unless you’re an autodidactic genius, which again, this movie makes clear these guys are not. Billy and Nick succeed because the movie gods demand that they succeed. It’s not uplifting, it’s formulaic and cheap.
It’s really hard to pinpoint everything that’s wrong with The Internship, because the movie is a colossal misfire on nearly every level. The only think that actually works here is the easy-going rapport that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn share. However, their relative likability actually makes things worse. The Internship isn’t merely unfunny, it’s painful to watch.