The Internship, 2013.
Directed by Shawn Levy.
Starring Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Aasif Mandvi, Max Minghella, Josh Brener, and Dylan O’Brien.
Two salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital age find their way into a coveted internship at Google, where they must compete with a group of young, tech-savvy geniuses for a shot at employment.
I like Vince Vaughn a lot. I like his straight-faced optimism, and the speed of his vocal delivery, the way he lets you know that he knows how you’re planning on objecting to his plans but that’s precisely why he has a new one. His primary performative influence seems to be Bill Murray, though where Murray barely if ever grins to himself and his foils, Vaughn’s charm is based more in his hedonism; he’s going to enjoy himself and you know you want to join him.
Owen Wilson compliments this. At best he can play an existentialist Beach Boy, the warm and almost ethereally eyes-full-of-wonder puppy dog reaching out for that blooming love with a sparky, somewhat more earthbound woman. Even in his more astringent roles – the terrifically-named Eli Cash in The Royal Tenenbaums – he retains likability, a genuine million-dollar heart looking for some love and not meaning to hurt anyone. (Start looking forward now to what should be his heartbreaking role as on-the-run-and-possibly-deceased surf-saxophonist/junkie/new father Coy Harlingen in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice).
Put these two together and you have a satisfying combination. The romantic and the cynic, the faith and the atheist. And you have Wedding Crashers, in which as John and Jeremy are party-seeking divorce mediators coming of age as Wilson’s John falls in love and Vaughn’s Jeremy’s cup is overfilled with the pleasures of the flesh (remind yourself of the breakfast scene, in which Wilson refuses to give up vying for Rachel McAdams as Claire, while Jeremy is shellshocked after the previous night’s enforced “nude gay art show”, and you have their chemistry in condensed form). They realise the resolution to their issues around the point at which Will Ferrell cameos as Chaz Reinhold, the original (and most obnoxious) wedding crasher, in a twisted conversational scene with Wilson.
You can almost tell from how early Ferrell’s appearance occurs in The Internship why it’s not going to be all that enjoyable. It’s lacking in genuine character and far more reliant on predictable and easy jokes. Its intentions are good but it feels forced. A central joke – what with the company essentially being the third lead character – is about what Google means as a company, and working with this is like satirising Barack Obama in 2009. All you can do is show how good it is and be amazed that it all seems to be true. It’s so good, it’s…funny?
A Google job lies at the end of a successful internship for Wilson and Vaughn, if they can prove their worth to a group of uppity, tech-savvy college kids and bring the virtues of old-fashioned humanity to the pastel-shaded digital workplace. Immaturities promise to mature.
This is all very safe territory, and it’s executed perfectly well. Admittedly, it’s choppy and pretty slapdash editing-wise, which makes you think they’ve worked over-hard to bring this down to 115 minutes, but that’s no problem so long as you make me laugh and care enough. But these two factors go hand-in-hand. It feels choppily-edited because the jokes aren’t flowing, there’s no grace and music to the dialogue, it’s all empty and while well-intentioned – the film’s message of conviviality and collaboration, of self-belief in times of struggle – it hasn’t the genuinely underlying cynicism which Wedding Crashers begins in. When it remembers this it becomes apparently hypocritical, shedding its sense of goodwill and friendship (particularly concerning ageism) for a facile joke about a retirement community. The film shows us the actors and filmmakers looking for jokes, a job probably better done earlier than this, and cutting together as many apparently funny phrases in every scene, with little regard to the tempo or flow, only to making sure we don’t harm the overarching message and keep things by-the-numbers (but it isn’t a matter of one or the other, humour or dramatic structure; one is very simple, and you have a lot of leeway before you’d start to bend it). If not earlier we’ll see this in the online interview scene, in which Vaughn and Wilson talk over each other to express their excitement and worthiness to two suspicious Google employees. It’s reminiscent of Wedding Crashers opening scene, the two buddies singing the praises of young love and weddings at a divorce proceeding, but while there it was heartwarming and you bounced between listening to one and the other like a happy pinball, here it’s noisy and desperate.
Satirical tabloid The Onion recently posted an article entitled “The Internship Poised to be Biggest Comedy of 2005”, suggesting that it would’ve been better released sooner after Wedding Crashers. It’s funny but it’s not really the problem. It’s just that we’re missing the humour and heart of the previous film, as if the eight-year interim created expectations too exceptional, and they were afraid to step out once again.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★