FILM REVIEW: The Internship

Google looks like a cool place to work, but not so keen on co-workers from this film

Comedy movie The Internship sees Shawn Levy (director/producer), Vince Vaughn (actor/writer) and Jared Stern (writer) in their second collaboration, the first being the fairly lacklustre 2012’s The Watch. The stars of 2005’s Wedding Crashers also enjoy a reunion on set, with Owen Wilson and Vaughn reprising their buddy act while Will Ferrell makes a brief guest appearance as the guy no-one wants to be dating their sister.

Vaughn and Wilson are Billy McMahon and Nick Campbell, two fast-talking watch salesmen at the top of their smarming game. Unfortunately, their game has just been called on account of being obsolete. As their boss (John Goodman) points out: nobody buys watches anymore, they just use their phones. Unmoved by their claims that people still need the human touch, Goodman and his terrifyingly silicone enhanced wife depart for pastures warmer.

With foreclosure notices on the door and the only job available wiping down the mattress protectors in a bed shop (managed by a bizarrely neck-tattooed and pointlessly repulsive Ferrell) the future for McMahon and Campbell looks like there isn’t one. That is until McMahon gets an idea and blags the pair an interview for an internship at Google that could, very possibly, maybe lead to a job.

Despite a cringe-inducing and lie-paced interview through Google+, McMahon and Campbell actually succeed in getting onto the programme and head for the promised land: Google headquarters. There’s just one problem, they know nothing about computers. Luckily, Google divides its ‘Nooglers’ (new Googlers) into teams, so all McMahon and Campbell have to do is coat-tail their way to success.

And there is no shame in that,’ Campbell says.

Unfortunately, none of the other interns wants two middle-aged Luddites on their team. So they end up with the rest of the left-overs: aggressively unimpressed Stuart Twombly (Dylan O’Brien, who does appear to have an iPhone in the middle of Android-central), Tiya Sircar as the ‘learned all my kink on the net’ Neha Patel, Tobit Raphael as the mom-pecked YoYo Santos and Josh Brenner as the team-leader Lyle Spaulding who talks about himself in the third person when he’s nervous.

The group, trope-typically, promptly fails at a variety of tasks because they lack faith in themselves, only to be rallied by McMahon and Campbell with a series of inspiring speeches based almost entirely on Flashdance. Basically, take away the distractingly awesome backdrop of Google’s theme-park head-quarters and it’s every disaffected teen sent to summer camp movie ever.

That’s not to say it’s not fun – sometimes. There are plenty of laughs, well a few, scattered through the movie – when the networking douchetagonist Graham Hawtrey (Max Minghella) realises that McMahon isn’t important and just walks away was both realistic (I’ve had that happen!) and amusing. The Quidditch match was also a ridiculous bit of genius, from Hawtrey using his over-weight teammate as a shield to the Snitch.

The stars Vaughn and, most notably, Wilson pull some very vulnerable, believable moments out of their acting bag when they calm down a bit. Wilson as the love-lorn Campbell, resorting to honesty in his pursuit of his love interest Dana (Rose Byrne), is actually very appealing.

The Internship’s supporting cast of Nooglers are also talented and regrettably underused, with O’Brien and Sircar in particular turning in appealing, clever performances that made me want to see much more of them than I did. As for Minghella, despite the occasional slip into moustache twiddling villainy, he created a mostly realistic antagonist in the aggressively self-interested Graham.

The problem is…

Well, there’s actually a lot of problems – from whipping out the tired and kinda racially offensive ‘tiger mommy’ trope to the equally tired ‘career woman left babies too late’ trope. Basically, just a few less tropes, or less obviously slapped on ones, would have been nice. Then there is the fact that I didn’t just need to suspend disbelief, I kind of needed to put a gimp mask on it.

Really? This film is set in 2012/13 and yet the two main characters (who appeared to be living a fairly middle-class lifestyle up until they were fired and were very aware of keeping up appearances) don’t have a smart-phone or a laptop or know what video-conferencing or a web-cam is? And funny as the scene with ‘Professor Xavier’ was, the X-Men are not the sole preserve of the nerds anymore. Comics are mainstream now. If you want to send someone on a wild-nerd chase after an obscure character, you need to go more Tony Chu from Chew than one of the main stars from a seven film, billion dollar franchise.

Oh, and that app where you have to do a sum before sending an embarrassing email? That’s been in Gmail labs for at least three years now.

In the end though, the main problem with The Internship is that Vaughn and Stern took a clever, funny idea about two losers reaching for the stars at Google, and then desperately tried to wedge some tired, old, gross-out comedy cliches about sex and race in there. The result is an odd juxtaposition and it’s a shame, because there was the potential for a really good comedy there under the old Vaughn schtick. It just got a bit lost.

Still, the backdrop of the legendarily fun Google work environment was great (I suspect Google are going to leg more people trying to blag their way into internships after this) and there were laughs to be had. Fans of Vaughn who’ve been longing for a return of the Wedding Crashers dream-team will enjoy the movie.

The Internship opens in Movie House Cinemas on July 4