The Internship (2013)
★ / ★★★★
Nick (Owen Wilson) and Billy (Vince Vaughn), a pair of watch salesmen, receive news that the company they work for has shut down. This is most inopportune because, like most adults, they have bills to pay. While searching for jobs online, it occurs to Billy that he and his best friend might have a shot at working for Google. All they have to do is get accepted to a highly competitive summer internship and win a series of challenges against IT-smart—and cutthroat—students hoping for a job right out of college.
There is no denying that Vaughn and Wilson are very good comedic performers, but with a screenplay that is so stale and direction that runs out of energy about thirty minutes in, the hope of saving a sinking ship is null. What we have here is material that should have been filled with whip-smart one-liners about the role of modern technology in our lives, backed with satirical edge—or at least an interesting commentary—about corporate culture, but it settles for being average. I am not a fan of mediocrity.
Part of the problem is that the supporting characters are not asked to do anything other than to serve as weak punchlines. As a result, I found Nick and Billy’s team members to be intolerable. Stuart (Dylan O’Brien), Neha (Tiya Sircar), and Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael) are supposed to be so intelligent and so driven to succeed that at times they come off unlikable, but the script by Vaughn and Jared Stern does not bother with specifics.
For instance, what does each member contribute to the table? Other than to snag a job after the competition, what is it about working for Google that they find so alluring? Who are they outside of the internship? Because we never learn about them as people with real thoughts and lives outside of the competition, the eventual changes they go through as individuals as well as a team feel completely phony.
It is a shame because the film missed an opportunity to make a real and increasingly relevant statement about human connection. Instead of simply existing as a broad comedy with a frustrating lack of focus, it should have been more pointed with what it is trying to say. All of us have come across really smart people and wondered why they are not more successful or happier in life. The material makes only a small suggestion that social skills, a willingness to express one’s personality, and attempting to get to know others are important elements for success as well as self-fulfillment. It appears as though the material is embarrassed to really get that point across.
The subplot involving a romance between Nick and a Google employee, Dana (Rose Byrne), is desperate at best. The two characters share no chemistry. Notice that their interactions almost always consist of sarcasm. Naturally, they must go on a date eventually. Somehow, we are supposed to believe that the whole charade is supposed to be cute or romantic. I found it insulting because the script assumes that we are idiots.
Directed by Shawn Levy, “The Internship” asks us to invest two hours of our time and it gives less than nothing. We get a couple of jokes about the older generation not knowing terms about the computer or the internet, Asian parents who put too much pressure on their child, and women who work too hard to be good at their jobs. Since no thought or inspiration is put in the screenplay, it ends up wallowing in clichés.