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Movie review: Internet comedy 'Internship' searches for laughs

Published June 7, 2013 9:52 am

Review • Tired script formula meets product placement.
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It's ironic — to borrow from the Alanis Morissette song that begins this movie — that the premise of "The Internship" is about 40-year-old guys learning to adjust to the Internet age, when the movie is so ingrained in the old-school habits of Hollywood buddy comedies that it could have been written on a Royal Underwood typewriter rather than an iPad.

The movie reunites Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, the comic team from "Wedding Crashers." As in that movie, their characters — Vaughn plays Billy, Wilson plays Nick — can schmooze and glad-hand their way through any situation. When we meet them here, they are wristwatch salesmen who are surprised to learn their company has folded because, their boss (John Goodman) explains, everybody looks at smartphones to learn what time it is.

Rather than accept obsolescence, Billy sells Nick on a plan to get hired by Google. The competition is fierce, and the guys must survive a webcam interview just to qualify for an internship. The dozens of interns then must compete for a handful of job openings.

The interns form teams, and Billy and Nick are among the left-behind misfits, along with overly cynical Stuart (Dylan O'Brien), sex-talking Neha (Tiya Sircar) and home-schooled overachiever Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael). They are led by the nerdy manager Lyle (Josh Brener), who looks barely old enough to shave. These 20-somethings are dismissive of Billy and Nick, tech-illiterate talkers old enough to be their parents.

The director of the internship program, Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi), expresses doubts that Billy and Nick will survive, let alone beat out Type-A strivers like the gloating Graham (Max Minghella), to prove their "Googliness." Also skeptical is Dana (Rose Byrne), a Google exec to whom Nick takes a shine. You don't have to ask Jeeves to know how things will turn out.

This story (devised by Vaughn, who shares screenplay credit with Jared Stern) has a few moments of comic possibilities, but most of them are flubbed by director Shawn Levy ("Real Steel," "Night at the Museum"), a hack of the first order.

Take, for example, a scene where the interns must answer yes/no questions using green or red paddles. The joke is that Billy and Nick answer differently than anyone else — but the sight gag of two green paddles in a sea of red is lost amid all the visual clutter Levy leaves in the frame.

It also speaks volumes when a Will Ferrell cameo goes on too long without generating any laughs, while a walk-on by Josh Gad (from Broadway's "The Book of Mormon") as a headphones-wearing outcast steals the movie in two minutes.

But if the ticket-buying audience doesn't get the comedy it paid for in "The Internship," Google gets its money's worth in product placement. The multicolored Google logo is seen everywhere, as Levy, Vaughn and company paint a warm and fuzzy portrait of a Silicon Valley corporate paradise. Doesn't selling a two-hour infomercial as a humorous buddy comedy violate Google's unofficial corporate motto, "Don't be evil"?



'The Internship'

Two 40ish guys try to land jobs at Google in a formulaic buddy comedy that sets a new standard in product placement.

Where • Theaters everywhere.

When • Opens Friday, June 7.

Rating • PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language.

Running time • 119 minutes.