Can the world’s biggest search engine and the comedic duo of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson combine to make the perfect app? Well, think of this review as your own personal Google Translate, where I break down for you how an internship doesn’t always lead to great opportunities. Read my full review after the break.
When good friends and sales associates Nick (Owen Wilson) and Billy (Vince Vaughn) lose their jobs, the two older men seek out a position at Google, the number one place to work in America. In order to even be considered for a job at Google, the two technologically-challenged friends must join the Google internship program where they are placed on a team of misfit geniuses who must compete in a number of challenges that will determine if their internships turn into actual jobs.
Making any film for the sole reason of bringing two leading actors back together again who were responsible for a surprise box office hit years earlier almost never works out (The Runaway Bride which saw the reuniting of Richard Gere and Julia Roberts springs to mind as one of the most notorious failures). However, if the chemistry between the two leads and the concept itself proves strong enough, then that could prove to be just enough to warrant another go at it. In the case of director Shawn Levy’s attempt to reignite that magic between Vaughn and Wilson with his Googley comedy The Internship, it unfortunately proves the rule rather than being the exception to it.
Wedding Crashers was a surprise hit. With only modest expectations from it or its two stars, who up to that point had been relegated to a dopey romance/comedy flicks, it was genuinely unexpected that their comedic duo would yield such lucrative rewards. Owen Wilson’s low-key approach successfully counterbalanced the over zealous Vince Vaughn, who has made the act of bitching about stuff into an art form. But instead of taking the simple route like most other Hollywood success stories, they didn’t make a sequel, there were no weddings to crash this time, they had made the choice to be different.
The Internship is a film that wants to so badly to be that feel good movie of the summer, that breezy comedy that just wants to make you smile and forget about your troubles. But sadly it has the opposite effect, instead of the laugh riot it thinks it is, the film and its stars can’t seem to find their way out from under its own trite and predictable material that sadly wastes the immense amount of potential its premise provides. What was supposed to be a film bolstered by the addition of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson joining forces again on the big screen has instead become its greatest enemy.
That’s not to suggest that either actor does a poor job, they do what is expected of them for the most part and pretty much play themselves, but that is part of the problem. To put it bluntly, their schtick is getting a little tired. 8 years ago audiences found the duo irresistible as a couple of wedding crashers, Vince Vaughn’s overly obnoxious playboy who can only get his point across by shouting it and Owen Wilson’s nice-guy simpleton routine were still somewhat fresh, but now their act is a tad stale.
Interestingly enough, the most refreshing and compelling aspects to The Internship have nothing to do with Vaughn or Wilson, but everything to do with the inclusion of Google. Using the world’s largest search engine as the backdrop for what is essentially a college campus comedy in the guise of a fish out of water tale (think Animal House meets Old School), proves to be the films greatest and most underused asset.
From the first minute we enter on to the Google campus, the film takes on a whole new life. All the set up for Vaughn and Wilson’s characters, with the yawn inducing relationship and job market woes (as well as a totally forgettable cameo by Will Ferrell), gets washed away as Google takes center stage. Unfortunately for us though, the film still finds Vaughn and Wilson’s overly predictable journey to better themselves to be more interesting than the technological playground they find themselves in.
Just like every other movie about a group of misfit geniuses who band together and form an unbeatable team of radically different personalities who must learn to work together (think Revenge of the Nerds), most of the film is comprised of scene after scene with Vaughn and Wilson teaching these incredibly smart, but incredibly socially awkward young adults how to live life to its fullest. You have seen these exact same characters in these exact same circumstances time and time again, and if it weren’t for Google’s involvement, none of it would even matter.
What do you think the chances are of Vaughn and Wilson defying the odds by learning to work with technology instead of fearing it? What do you think the odds of the geeky team leader finding confidence in himself to ask out the hot Google dance instructor…and have her accept? What do you think the chances are that the home schooled kid who has known nothing but abuse for messing up will let loose and become a party animal? What do you think the chances of the cynical kid who hates Vaughn and Wilson to come around by the end and appreciate their wisdom?
If you think that is bad, just wait until the unveiling of the single most annoying plot contrivance that has long plagued every story about a group of underdogs trying to succeed, the evil team leader (Max Minghella) who wants nothing more than to see them fail just for the sake of being evil. At first he just seems like a rude guy, but he quickly shows his true colors as he plots to take down the one team that stands in his way of total victory. But wait…aren’t Vaughn and Wilson’s team the underdogs?
Don’t the other teams pose a more immediate threat with their superior team members and knowledge? Throughout the entire film he stalks them, antagonizes them and belittles them much in the same way a bully would, which makes no sense at all given his goal to win the competition. But since the film wants so desperately to cling to tradition and tell a story we have seen countless times before with countless iterations, we must suffer through this painfully predictable set of events that we know will lead to the evil team leader’s eventual downfall at his own hands.
But by far the worst tragedy of The Internship is how little it takes advantage of the Google name and the multitude of comedic possibilities that institution provides. While it is highly likely that in order to obtain and use their company name, Google had the filmmakers agree to any number of restrictions, but the joke is on them because if these are indeed the actual challenges they put their interns through then something is seriously wrong. If one of the requirements to prove your “Googleyness” is to win a game of Quidditch then they are in need of some serious restructuring. The only part of the film that actually uses Google in a smart way is the closing credits which were far more entertaining than anything else in the movie.
To be fair, the other challenges seem slightly more plausible, things such as tracking down a software bug, creating an app or manning the Google helpline are a little more in line with what one would expect, but even then the film once again doesn’t seem that interested in the process, but more in the formula of whether or not Owen Wilson will find true love with a corporate Google head (Rose Byrne, retaining her Aussie accent for once) or if Vince Vaughn will find his self confidence in time to save the day. These scenarios wouldn’t be all that bad if they were are least funny or smart, which they aren’t. If the film had let us see the actual process of creating an app from scratch, implementing it and seeing it actually used, it would have been infinitely more amusing than seeing yet another bar fight between the geeks and the jocks (seriously, that happens).
Is the film a total bust? Looked upon as a pure and simple comedy it is sorely lacking. The laughs are sparse with only a handful of funny gags, Vaughn and Wilson fall into their routines immediately and never branch out and try something different, the campus comedy hijinks are yawn inducing and the jokes feel lazy overall, especially everything having to with how old Vaughn and Wilson are. The filmmakers were betting heavily on the star power of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and the Google brand to bring it home and as it stands, only one of those three bullet points wins big, and that is Google itself.
While the whole internship gimmick feels a little false at times, the campus life of Google saves the film from complete failure. If Google’s plan was to use this opportunity as a way to advertise its business model to the world, well…it worked. There isn’t one person who will walk away from the film not wanting a job at Google, which seems to be the desired effect. The filmmakers may have failed to utilize the Google name to their advantage and create something unique, but Google sure as hell made use of their feature film debut. Google is the only reason anyone should want to apply for this particular internship.