It’s been said that landing an internship at Google is tougher than getting into Harvard. So it doesn’t make much sense that two middle-aged, out of work salesman get the gig, especially when they’re unable to operate a webcam during the interview. But fine, that’s the joke and it isn’t important for a comedy to have a logical premise. What is important for a comedy is that it’s funny. Unfortunately, The Internship is entertaining enough, but light on laughs.
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson re-team for the first time since 2005’s Wedding Crashers. Both are likable actors with their own distinct comedic style and have great chemistry together. However, that isn’t nearly as apparent in this movie as it was back in 2005. “Wedding Crashers” was a crude and outrageous R-rated romp that allowed Vaughn and Wilson to let loose and push the envelope. “The Internship” reels the actors back in for a watered down PG-13 rating. Vince Vaughn, the “bad boy” of comedy, has no business being tame and rewording his diatribes to be less crass. It’s not to say that for a comedy to be funny it needs an R-rating. Some of the funniest movies, such as Anchorman, Austin Powers, and Billy Madison, have come with a PG-13 stamp. The difference is that those films relied on absurdist humor, abandoning the boundaries of reality and entering surrealistic territory. The Internship is very grounded in reality with it’s premise revolving around the current economic and job crisis. It doesn’t go to the absurd, weird, and downright bizarre levels that those other films reached. In fact, without the luxury to rely on vulgarity many PG-13 comedies are more clever than their R-rated counterparts. That’s not the case here. Regardless, it’s just funnier to hear Vaughn drop an F-bomb.
Vaughn and Wilson play Billy and Nick, two salesman whose company has just went out of business leaving them unemployed. Nick gets a job selling mattresses for his obnoxious brother-in-law, played by Will Ferrell, and it’s troubling when a cameo appearance by Ferrell isn’t particularly funny. It brings back memories of his cameo in Wedding Crashers, which was very funny, and very (ironically) R-rated. Billy convinces Nick that they need to get with the digital age and secures them an interview for an internship at Google. The interview is disastrous, but they somehow convince the Google honchos to think outside the box and take a shot on them. They get hired for the internship program, joining hundreds of twenty-something college students all vying for a handful of positions that only a select few will get.
The first thirty minutes of the film are sort of dull but the story picks up when the guys join the Google team and the crux of the plot kicks in. Being forty-somethings in a sea of youth, they are immediately outcast when the other interns need to decide who will be their teammates for the duration of the job. The kids who would usually get picked last during a game of softball are the most sought after players in this universe. Billy and Nick join the other unpicked outcasts, forming a last string group of underdogs. From here on out the movie is entertaining and even fun at times, but not necessarily funny. They’re given various tasks such as creating an app and fixing a computer bug. Watching the technology illiterate Billy and Nick attempt to participate makes for the movie’s best moments. However, the plot isn’t always cohesive and sometimes just lends itself to implementing a comedic set-piece. Two sequences in particular stand out. In the first, Billy and Nick’s team compete against rival interns in a game of “Quidditch”, a sport played on flying broomsticks and invented in the Harry Potter movies. Of course, they just run with the broomsticks. Again, the scene has lots of energy but where are the jokes? At one point Vaughn refers to Flashdance to get his team pumped, but it just comes off stale. Quoting an obscure movie as means of inspiring one’s teammates is a joke that’s been done to death, even by Vaughn in previous films. The other sequence, and perhaps the funniest of the film, is when Billy and Nick take their dorky teammates to a strip club. This scene comes the closest they get to pushing the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, including a fairly risque joke with a hand-dryer being used for what is definitely not its primary function. Other than that you can’t help but think how much funnier an R-rated version of all this would be. Sure the kids get wasted and get lap dances, but it’s a missed opportunity that they didn’t go all out.
Though under the guise of working in an internship program, the movie could really be a generic college comedy taking place on a campus. Although Billy and Nick aren’t attending college, they’re nonetheless surrounded by an environment of young students. Like Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School, or even Vaughn’s past work in Old School, most of the comedy is derived from the differences in age and experience. Somewhat different is the added message about corporate culture and what it means to succeed and compete in current times. Two out of touch guys attempting to keep up in a digital age is at least a layer of satire that those college comedies don’t have.
There’s nothing too wrong with The Internship, it’s just not that funny. The premise is solid, the actors are solid, but the jokes are lagging. Still, you have to admire an original concept amidst a summer of sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots. Let’s just hope that the next time Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up they do something more along the lines of wedding crashing, not computer programming.