The Internship stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as two out of work, middle-aged salesmen trying to win jobs at Google through a prestigious internship. Absurd stretches in logic aside, for a film about salesmanship, The Internship does a horrible job of selling itself as a funny (or real) movie.
The Internship could have been a real movie about 10 years ago -- maybe. The entire film is a gratingly generic advertisement for Google, which presents the workplace (rightfully so) as a sort aspirational paradise. Free food, "nap pods," colorful bicycles, picnic areas, games and a children's slide are just some of the perks Google employees enjoy when they're not writing code and tending to the customer helpline. Two recently laid-off salesmen (Vaughn, Wilson) cook up a scheme to nab an internship that may or may not lead to a full-time job at the search engine's headquarters. This involves hastily enrolling at the University of Phoenix online college because potential Google interns must be college students in order to qualify. And though the pair have zero college time under their belts and absolutely no experience in coding or technology, they're somehow accepted into the intern program on a wing and a prayer.
And then things get wacky! Like, did you know that when you put middle-aged people in a situation with a bunch of 21 year old college kids, it's hilarious? With a script co-written by Vince Vaughn, it's not hard to imagine him hoping to rekindle the magic of Old School in which he replaces a frat with Google HQ and gets a box office hit. The problem isn't that Vaughn and director Shawn Levy are recycling a tried and true concept (and they're really trying: Will Ferrell has a small, marginally funny role), the problem is that The Internship just isn't funny. It's so horrible that it's almost antagonistic in how horrible it is. It feels like a movie written by Vince Vaughn's character: a guy out of touch with modern technology (and Christ, Google isn't even complex) with a regressive, lax attitude about propriety. Vince Vaughn is like that cool uncle at family functions whom your family resents because he's an unemployed, opportunistic con-man, but you're so hypnotized by his charisma that you don't see what a loser he is yet. A guy who convinces you that he's smart and knowledgeable because he rambles so fluidly that you can't keep up with what he's saying. Before you know it, you're hearing Vaughn's trademark line about taking off your clothes and getting into a little trouble (seriously, does he have a clause in his contract to guarantee he says this in every film?) and you're going along with it.
Along for the ride as well are a group of fellow interns stuck, by default, with Vaughn and Wilson under the leadership of Google employee Lyle. There's the introverted hipster who thinks he's above everything, the Indian girl in cute dresses who talks a big game about her sexual preferences but secretly has no experience to back it up, the Asian kid who must honor his family and engages in some disturbing Trichotillomania habits on his eyebrows (and this is somehow supposed to be hilarious), and Lyle, the geeky leader who has a crush on a stripper and talks in cartoonish ghetto vernacular to impress people. There are Star Wars, Harry Potter and Hentai references (you know, for the kids), and a love interest in the form of Rose Byrne, who goes full Katherine Heigl in this thing and it is depressing. And of course, there are uncomfortable jokes about people being fat or slutty, which would be fine if they were funny, insightful or even just a little self-aware, but it's unclear if these jokes come from a place intelligent enough to even be considered mean-spirited -- like everything else, they just feel out of place and dumb.
There are a couple of faint bright spots in the film: Max Minghella, an often underrated actor, plays a great villain, and with a better script could have knocked this out of the park. He has one line in the film that earned a legitimate laugh, but overall seems wasted as a caricature. An almost unrecognizable Josh Gad proves he has versatility in a mysterious (but predictable) part, though his final scene in the film reads like the comely girl in an early '00s teen movie finally finding the inner strength to read the riot act to her high school oppressors. It goes from sincere to overkill in less than the amount of time it would take for Google to return a search result.
The Internship is the kind of movie that thinks it's hilarious to make "Why don't you Google it?" jokes at Google headquarters. It's the kind of movie that, if made back when Vince Vaughn movies still seemed subversive, we'd likely enjoy. And while the film certainly earned consistent laughs from several other audience members, we seem to have reached that nebulous landmark where an actor's one-note theatrics have devolved from endearing to excruciatingly redundant. Listening to Vince Vaughn do his signature spitfire rambling routine has become an endurance test. The Internship has enough problems, but Vince Vaughn is its biggest deal breaker.