Silver Screen: The Internship **1/2
In the early going of The Internship, a character says to Vince Vaughn’s bloviating salesman character, “You’re just saying a lot of words really fast, but they mean nothing.” It’s a line that’s perhaps a little too on-the-nose, pulling back the curtain on Vaughn’s entire approach to comedy for the past several years. It’s also one of the very few perceptive observations in a movie so choc-a-bloc with clichés and tepid comic setpieces that it’s difficult for the audience not to stay two steps ahead of it.
The Internship is an attempt at a kind of spiritual sequel to Wedding Crashers, and it feels a lot like someone’s second wedding: It’s a little awkward, the excitement is gone, and everyone involved is looking mostly for comfort and security.
In Wedding Crashers, Vaughn and Wilson were fun-loving goofs who were given absolution for their venal sins because, hey, they’re the life of the party. Nearly a decade later, they’re getting a little old for the same freewheeling jokester routine, which is at least acknowledged in the movie’s potentially workable premise: two amiable, aging salesguys with negligible skill sets find themselves on the wrong end of the economic downturn. Their solution is to apply for a competitive internship at Google, where they will face off against the best and the brightest recruits fresh out of college.
It’s basic if effective fish-out-of-water comedy, but it takes forever to get started. A full forty minutes elapse before our beloved doofuses make their way onto the Google campus, which is presented as a paradise where everything is fun, everything is free, nobody gets hurt, and data mining is most definitely not a thing. When at last they get there, The Internship settles into its Bad News Bears/Even Older School routine and does manage to start generating some laughs. The boys hook up with a nerd crew that includes the socially inept team leader (Josh Brener), the standoffish would-be Zuckerberg (Dylan O’Brien), the outgoing but secretly insecure token girl (Tiya Sircar), and Asian stereotype (Tobit Raphael).
Do these kids teach our paunchy protagonists their book-learned skills while our guys help them learn a little something about life? You bet they do. The real problem isn’t so much that their fate is never really in question, much the way you know Wilson will melt the heart of the brusque but lonely beauty (Rose Byrne) who spurns his initial advances. The problem is that they go about it in exactly the way you would expect, without a single surprising development or unexpected detour. The script is co-credited to Vaughn and Jared Stern, but it seems as though somehow the Final Draft screenplay-writing program became sentient, Skynet-style, and auto-generated a comedy.
Wilson and Vaughn are talented enough to keep the movie from ever tilting into unwatchability. There are some funny moments, but it’s the performances bolstering the material, which is a videotaped Mad Libs of pop-culture trivia. At one point, one of the nerd kids yells, “Bangarang!”, the Lost Boys’ war cry from Hook, during a Quidditch match that ends after Vaughn gives a faux-stirring speech that is actually a plot synopsis of the movie Flashdance. It’s the laziest form of using references instead of punchlines. Add that to how the movie is essentially a feature-length advertisement for Google, all the way down to the font on the poster, and it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been sold a bill of goods instead of a movie ticket.
Here’s hoping the Bing movie is better.
Follow Bryan Miller on Twitter@bmillercomedy.