23 October 2013 | StevePulaski
A fairly smart movie disguised as a stupid one
The Internship is a fairly smart movie disguised as a stupid one. It's too bad that many audience members saw the stupidity and judged the film entirely on that, rather than listening to what the film actually had to say. The film is by no stretch great and often becomes too obsessed with crude humor and directionless crassness. However, when the film recognizes that it's material is relevant and relatable to an older public is when the film becomes more of a moderately-successful venture than a mediocre comedy.
The relevancy I'm talking about is the current age where people of an older demographic are having difficultly finding jobs with the recent onslaught of technology and the rather quick, uncomfortable hustle of the digital age. The film stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, two actors I've always appreciated, as Billy and Nick, two watch salesman who catch up with the times in the regard that their company has been made obsolete because people - even their own salesman - check their phones for the time rather than a wristwatch. Upon being fired, they each seek out their own methods of employment, until Billy encourages Nick to participate in an internship with him for the web search engine Google.
The issue with this is that Billy and Nick are pushing forty. They are not up to date with technology, but are seduced by promises of high pay and Google's accolades as being the best company to work for in the modern age. Upon arriving to Google, Billy and Nick realize their main competition is new-graduates and college-aged kids who are way more brushed up on the internet than they'll ever be. As Nick puts it, the internship is a "mental Hunger Games" with young kids, as everyone is divided up into small groups and forced to compete in challenges all across the board in order to assure the most diligent and accomplished worker be awarded with the job.
Writers Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern scarcely stray from formula here. They keep everything light, breezy, but always high-spirited, as Billy and Nick go through the familiar movie-cycles of being fishes out of water, the laughing stock, and then fully-realized as dedicated human beings that can win challenges and pose a serious threat to the young-bloods competing for the same internship. It is when Vaughn and Stern recognize the potential of their material that maximum potency for The Internship is reached. They show that, in this day and age, older men and women are shunned, either because they come with a heavy price-tag due to their experience, are feared for their potential health problems, or lack technology skills in the digital age. The film shows the duo's willingness to do well but their ultimate failure in some fields. However, the writers don't hesitate to show the detached, cynical youth who think they know everything because of the device in their pockets. One character brings up a believable justification to the culture's cynicism - the world's increasing vigor and the competition for every job available. After all, he's one of dozens competing for an internship at Google, performing back-breaking acts of labor and competition to try and secure a job in what will be an unbelievably competitive company.
The Internship, for a heavy-budget summer comedy that can easily be mistaken for two-hour product placement for Google, actually brings up viable points that cater to both the older generation and the younger and how technology, while making each party's life easier, has made it more frustrating and complex. The only real detraction to the material is its stupidity can get to the point where it nearly compromises the film. Many jokes fall flat, but surprisingly, the sentiment and emotional leverage that comes in at the end feels authentic and possesses the ability to be believed. For mainstream comedies, this is usually reversed. But, as one can infer, this isn't your typical summer comedy.
I must conclude on a rather odd note. From seeing the first trailer to now seeing the film, I must identify a criminally misguided joke that has bothered me for months now. In their first few minutes at Google, Billy and Nick meet Lyle (Josh Brener from those Samsung commercials they use to play in cinemas), a well-meaning geek who has worked at Google for years now. The film tries to make the joke when Lyle first greets Billy and Nick that he's socially inept and doesn't really know how to properly greet someone. He holds his knuckles, hoping to engage in a first-bump with the guys, and says, "Pound me. C'mon, bro, fist me, get up in there." Obviously the joke is showing his inability to connect with people at first sight and his ignorance towards word-choice. However, The Internship is trying to portray the ineptitude of Billy and Nick, who are, as said, fishes out of water in a new company driven by younger souls. Shouldn't they be the ones telling Lyle to fist them?
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Josh Brener, Rose Byrne, and John Goodman. Directed by: Shawn Levy.