June 5, 2013



THE INTERNSHIP:  Watch It At Home – No Search Engine Necessary To Predict the Plot

Vince Vaughn has been playing his motormouth-with-a-heart-of-gold character pretty much non-stop since Swingers in 1996.  That’s 17 years of minimal variations on the same basic schtick.  It’s not that he can’t do anything else–he was quite good in a small role for Sean Penn in Into the Wild, and he was interesting in Gus Van Sant’s Psycho recreation, even if it didn’t work–but that character is where the money is for Vaughn, and he not only stars in the (sort-of) new THE INTERNSHIP, he shares the writing credit (with Jared Stern).  So this nearly endless repetition is hardly being forced on him.  After 17 years, he’s sort of like that guy in college who was so funny when you used to go out drinking together, but when you see him at the reunion, still making the same jokes, he’s a little bit sad.  Increasing the deja vu this time, Vaughn is reteamed here with his Wedding Crashers co-star Owen Wilson (other pals make cameos, too), who’s still doing that slightly misted-over mix of earnestness and slow-pitch hooey that’s always worked for him, too.

The aging process is part of what The Internship is about, or anyway pretends to be about, and it’s possible, if you squint, to see the movie as an allegory for Vaughn and Wilson’s careers.  Here they play Billy and Nick, ace salesmen in a field (analog wristwatches) that’s fading away.  The movie begins with their boss (John Goodman, not working hard) telling them the company’s going out of business, and eventually Billy has the brainstorm of applying for the internship program at Google.  The movie’s major joke–often it feels like the only one–is that Billy and Nick are completely ignorant about new technology and anything else newfangled, and for the most part happy to stay so.  Their interview is a set-piece about the inability to understand Skype, neither of them has ever heard of X-Men, and until the last reel, Billy in particular shows little interest in learning about any of the things Google actually does.  The Internship seems to have been conceived for an earlier generation of protagonist; another set-piece has Billy repeatedly saying “on the line” despite being corrected to say “online,” the kind of mistake your grandpa might make, not a character who one assumes is meant to be around the same 43 years old that Vaughn is.  The movie itself is like Billy and Nick (and for that matter Vaughn and Wilson), setting itself in an up-to-date locale but hanging on for dear life to every decades-old cliche it can.

The old-fashioned quality extends to the plot.  The Google interns are separated into teams (the winning team is guaranteed full-time Google employment), and Billy and Nick are naturally placed with the other outcasts, putting us right into Revenge of the Nerds territory, since everyone on their team–Stuart (Dylan O’Brien), Neha (Tiya Sircar), Yoyo (Tobit Raphael), and even supposed supervisor Lile (Josh Brener)–is an all-but-interchangeable virginal naif who has to be introduced to the concepts of drinking, sex, late nights and fun in general by our pair of heroes, and they’re opposed by a team led tyrannically by Graham (Max Minghella), whose evil is guaranteed by his British accent.  Since someone needs a love interest, Rose Byrne shows up as a Google employee who initially has no interest at all in Nick, not at all, no way could they possibly end up together by the end credits.  (The only novelty is that she’s allowed to speak with her real Australian accent.)  Of course over time, the team’s young members, who initially disdained Billy and Nick’s lack of tech knowledge, come to appreciate and admire them.  And even though Billy and Nick spend most of the movie mystified by the technology that surrounds them, is it possible that the final challenge determining who wins the competition will require exactly the kind of interpersonal salesmanship skills that the geeks lack, but our old-time salesmen have in spades?  Huh?  Could it be?  No search engine needed to figure it out.

A lot’s been written about Google’s involvement in the movie and what amounts with a 2-hour product placement, and there’s no question that the company is presented as a gleaming example of a hard but wonderful place to work, with plenty of emphasis on perks like free food and nap-pods.  No doubt there are other movies that could depict life at Google very differently, but it all seems fairly harmless here, and the control Google had over corporate content may have held Vaughn and his fellow creators back from even dumber jokes.

The Internship was directed by Shawn Levy, one of the hackiest of current Hollywood comedy-meisters (Cheaper By the Dozen, the Steve Martin remake of The Pink Panther, the Night At the Museum movies and Date Night are among his credits), and he keeps the gags running on time–a little too much time, with an unjustified 119-minute length.  There are no surprises, no unexpected depths, no moments of inspiration.  Mostly, Levy steps back and lets Vaughn and Wilson do what they do, and for fans who still enjoy watching them, here it is.   Ironically, this movie that’s supposed to be about moving on and learning new things is as stodgy as they come.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."