Believability has no place in “The Internship.” This is a movie in which two middle-aged men, both suddenly unemployed and, in one case, facing foreclosure, decide their wisest move is to apply for unpaid internships at Google even though they possess zero technical skills, barely know what Instagram is and often refer to the Internet as “the online.” Anything resembling post-economic-recession logic clearly got chucked out the window here, along with the acknowledgment that Bing and Yahoo exist.
But hey, who cares, right? The whole point of “The Internship” is to reunite Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, whose mile-a-minute-meets-super-mellow chemistry made “Wedding Crashers” a massive hit in 2005 and puts them in ridiculous situations that prove moxie and determination always overcome actual competence. The fact that this overlong, often preposterous comedy succeeds at all (which it does, only occasionally) proves that the Vaughn/Wilson charm can still work a measure of magic.
Former watch salesmen Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) improbably snag those coveted intern slots and, gobsmacked and Googly-eyed, report to work, where they learn that all interns will be divided into teams that must complete a series of challenges. At the end of the internship, members of the winning team collect the ultimate prize: full-time positions at the place where Chrome and Gmail were born. In short order, two 40-somethings who can barely work a webcam find themselves attempting to fix coding bugs, develop apps and, for some strange reason, win Quidditch matches. And they must do it while working with younger, brighter counterparts who have little patience for the clueless oldy-olds who keep holding them back. That is, until they all get drunk together. Ah, alcohol, is there a generational gap you can’t overcome?
Some additional, largely superfluous plotlines also sneak their way into the script by Vaughn and Jared Stern, including a rivalry with an exceptionally nasty British intern (Max Minghella, best known for siding with Team Winklevii in “The Social Network”); a romance between Nick and a gorgeous upper-management Aussie (Rose Byrne); and, of course, the requisite “Google is great” sub-narrative. Yes, it’s imperative for the audience to constantly absorb information about all the wonderful tools the Mountain View, Calif., company offers to consumers as well as the perks — access to nap pods! endless complimentary pudding! — it provides for its employees. Did I mention that Google cooperated fully with the production of “The Internship”?
Oh, it’s true. Google it.
“The Internship’s” more enjoyable moments play out when Vaughn and Wilson are at odds over some triviality — say, the merits of including Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” on their “Get Psyched” mix — or attempting to rally the spirits of the digital savants around them. But even some of those gags feel recycled. A Vaughn motivational speech that derives its inspiration from the movie “Flashdance” easily could have been copied and pasted from an unused page of the “Dodgeball” screenplay. And the whole notion of these arrested adolescents helping college kids come of age smacks a bit heavily of “Old School,” the movie that first paired Vaughn with a Wilson (in that case, Luke). Some of these set pieces may coax out a chuckle. But none of them surprise.
That’s a shame, because somewhere in “The Internship,” there’s a movie that wants to say some fresh, insightful things about the often marginalized roles in which both Gen-Xers and Millennials find themselves in contemporary corporate America.
“You’re too young to be this cynical,” Wilson tells his young team members as they begin to feel depressed about the discouraging job market that may await them post-internship. A few scenes later, Wilson again acts as life coach, this time assuring his buddy Vaughn that he can make it through this HTML-heavy training camp because he grew up in the 1970s, a time when parents barely buckled their kids into seat belts.
It makes you wish “The Internship” had spent more time demonstrating why it really is heroic for men and women of a certain age to jump headfirst into Internet culture and try to master it. Instead, this movie gives us a collection of pleasant, intermittently amusing scenes starring two guys who never met a Jennifer Beals-movie analogy they didn’t like. It’s passable. But with additional beta-testing and a few code fixes, it could have been great.
Chaney is a freelance writer.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language. 119 minutes.