In the rude, antic, and brazenly funny Wedding Crashers (2005), Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn played overgrown arrested-development cases who won us over from their very first whopping lie onward. At the time, the two actors were already in their mid-30s, but they were still able to mount a bad-boy generational assault against all things civil and decent. The Internship reunites Wilson, with his smarm-that-looks-like-sweetness (or is it the other way around?), and Vaughn, with his disaffected fast patter. The audience is still rooting for them — only this time the two are playing the older, stodgy guys.
They’re Nick (Wilson) and Billy (Vaughn), designer-watch salesmen who lose their careers in what seems like the tick of a second hand. Tossed into a dead-end job market, without any real prospects, they talk their way into an internship on the sprawling, buzzy Silicon Valley campus of Google, where they?re pitted against a bunch of brainiac 20-year-olds who live and breathe technology and don?t get any of the pair?s pathetically ancient pop-culture references (Stalag 17, anyone?). Directed by the workmanlike Shawn Levy (who made the Night at the Museum films and Date Night), the movie is a halfway clever cookie-cutter culture-clash comedy, but there?s a reason that it lacks the highs of Wedding Crashers: The Internship puts us on the side of those who are trying to hold on to respectability, not tear it down.
The movie was made with the cooperation of Google, which is why its basic attitude toward the search engine that changed the world is one of unironic reverence. True, the place can come off looking a bit goofy and obsessive. The leader of the internship program is Mr. Chetty (The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi), a po-faced corporate guru who lights up whenever he extols the virtues of ethereal concepts like ”Googliness.” And when the army of interns gets divvied up into a dozen competing teams, only one of which will ultimately land jobs there, Nick and Bill are stuck with the social outliers that no one else wants ? the geeks among geeks. They?re led by Lile (Josh Brener), a shrimpy, horn-rimmed genius who tries to fit in by saying things like ”fo shizzle.” (He’s clearly been saying that since he was about five.) The actors cast as Google interns are likable and mildly amusing in a Revenge of the Nerds 2013 way. But I wish that at least one of them had been given a major voice, a way of making the tech banter seem hilariously cool. The likeliest candidate would have been Stuart (Dylan O’Brien), with his sullen stare and open contempt for our heroes, but the character loses his superior edge over time, which is the movie’s mistake. It’s up to Nick and Bill to teach these brilliant losers how to live, and what that comes down to is showing them that it?s fun to let go and do Tequila shots and dance like crazy and hit on people. How rebellious!
The Internship was written by Vaughn and Jared Stern, and it?s got little jabs of wit, like the scene in which Nick and Bill are duped into addressing a bald instructor in a wheelchair as ”Professor Charles Xavier” (he is not pleased). A lot of the film is devoted to showing how the cult of technology and the human element don’t need to be opposed; they can, and should, work hand in hand. That?s a nice message (and it?s certainly a swell advertisement for Google), but it?s not a funny message. The Internship gets so caught up in healing the generational divide that it?s ostensibly about — the analog dudes vs. the digital kids — that the movie ends up being just a pleasant collection of mild laughs. It needed more spin, more Googliness. B