Although I suspect this will change as early as next week, 2013 has been a terrible year for comedies. There are some promising works on the horizon, but between the annoying IDENTITY THIEF to the impotent A HAUNTED HOSUE to the two-laugh THE HANGOVER PART III, there's been very little intentional laughing going on in theater this year. And I'm afraid the re-teaming of WEDDING CRASHERS' stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson doesn't help the situation; in fact, I'd say it makes things so much worse. You know what? I don't even care that THE INTERNSHIP is a giant sex act performed on the company Google. If a movie is funny, I don't care who funded it, how many product placements there are, or how perfect a corporation wants to portray itself. I'll recommend it, if it makes me laugh. And aside from a few muted chuckles, THE INTERNSHIP did not make me laugh. It made me restless.
Vaughn and Wilson play Billy and Nick, a pair of high-end-watch salesmen whose company goes under while they're on a big sales call. Their boss (John Goodman) pulls the rug out from under them, with nothing to fall back on but their chemistry and witty banter. Yes, shockingly enough Vaughn is front-loaded with salesman-like banter, while Wilson takes a folksier approach to selling. Scraping around for a new job, Billy discovers that Google has a summer internship program, and the intern team that does the best goes on to receive guaranteed jobs at the company. After enlisting in an internet college so they can claim they are students, the pair are actually accepted to the program and are immediately branded as "old" and "without any usable computer skills," both of which are true. And cue the hilarity.
Naturally, Billy and Nick are thrown together with the reject pile of interns to form a misfit team that would appear to be the weakest of the bunch. But all of that can-do spirit from the old guys rallies the geek troop, and they make a run to be the best of the best. (It helps that Nick somehow becomes a computer whiz in the course of a few weeks.) Because a film like this needs an obstacle beyond being unqualified for their jobs, screenwriters Vaughn and Jared Stern toss in a snooty intern (Max Minghella from The Social Network) to scoff at every mistake the other teams make. And because a film like this needs a love story to stretch the running time to exactly two hours, Rose Byrne is tossed in as Dana, a Google exec slash love interest for Nick. Way to empower women and squander a great actor, guys.
As directed by Shawn Levy (both NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM films, REAL STEEL, DATE NIGHT) The Internship's biggest sins against cinema and comedies is that pretty much every college-age character isn't actually a character at all; they are types. There's the classic model über nerd who is constantly making STAR WARS references; the Asian kid who's afraid of his demanding, critical mother; the hipster kid who never puts down his smart phone and just makes snarky comments; or the geek girl who talks like she lives the sexually fueled party life, but is a virgin with aspirations. The list goes on and on and on and on. Not that the slightly older characters fare much better.
Not a single thing about THE INTERNSHIP isn't predictable. And what's most sad about this effort is that Vaughn and Wilson aren't sleepwalking through it; they're really trying to make us laugh, and you probably will once or twice. I like both of these guys as comic actors, but they feel trapped by this stifling PG-13 storyline that basically reduces them to babysitters. I actually think there could be a truly funny workplace comedy made about working at company like Google, if the company was willing to be honest and open about the types of people who fill a tech company. But this ain't that, and the film is a sweeping disappointment from all angles.