Vince Vaughn is a middle-aged manchild who can no longer coast on charm, so he awkwardly inserts himself into a ensemble of promising young upstarts and proceeds to bring them down to his level of lackadaisical shiftlessness, wasting everyone’s time but somehow emerging on top at the end. That’s The Internship for you. It is also, incidentally, the “plot” of The Internship. Boom! And you thought the real-life subtext of After Earth was on the nose.
Sure, it’s an easy joke (sorry Vince, you seem like a nice guy), but that’s all The Internship has to offer: easy jokes. The film opens with Vince Vaughn singing along – badly – to Alanis Morisette’s “Ironic.” That’s the whole gag, by the way. Isn’t it funny that he’s singing a song that maybe you wouldn’t have expected him to sing, and that he’s not particularly good at it despite not being a trained singer or anything? That’s how The Internship tries to grab you from frame one. It only gets less original from there.
The Internship stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as watch salesmen who lose their jobs because nobody wears watches anymore. (Several people in my theater checked their watches at this point.) It proves to be the perfect opportunity for all the people they love – whom we will never, ever see again – to point out what valuable life lessons they will learn by the end of the movie.
For example, Vince Vaughn always comes close to success, but he always succumbs to self-sabotage at the last minute, so he will be the one who gives up right before the big climax and has to be talked back into action. Meanwhile, Owen Wilson’s biggest problem is that he has never dated anybody for more than a few months, so Owen Wilson will proceed to waste the next hour-and-a-half of all of our lives trying to charm an attractive workaholic into going out with him, even though they have no chemistry apart from Wilson acting goofy and his love interest rolling her eyes. When she rolls her eyes and smiles, it means she really likes him. This is what qualifies as romance.
Vaughn and Wilson decide to go back to square one with an internship at Google, which – as the film constantly reminds us – is supposed to be one of the best places to work in America: geeky enough to make a real-life Quidditch match one of their requirements for employment, but also at the foreground of innovation. Odd, then, that Google would lend its name to one of the most conventional comedies ever filmed. Vaughn and Wilson team up with a team of lovable losers who compete with a group of vainglorious blowhards for the big prize at the end of the school year… or rather, “the summer,” since The Internship’s one impotent stab at originality is transposing rigid college movie clichés into the environment of post-college internships.
Kids who work too hard will learn how to loosen up by going to a strip club. Older party guys will learn a thing or two about studying. “Hurray” will be yelled, metaphorically, for teamwork. And the fusty, disapproving authority figure (played here by Aasif Mandvi) will eventually acknowledge the heroes’ talents, or at least their improvement. Wilson will get the girl for no better reason than because the movie is more than halfway over and she has literally no other subplots, so she might as well do something to justify why she’s in The Internship.
The only other thing worth mentioning about The Internship is that the filmmakers seem to understand that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are older than their supporting cast, and that they have no idea what to do with that information. Certain scenes seem to demonstrate that their years of life experience are a valuable asset to the team, but most of the film depicts them as shiftless layabouts with no sense of workplace propriety. They don’t understand how Skype works either, which seems like a joke most movies would apply to septuagenarians instead of man-children in their 40s.
Another distracting contradiction finds Vaughn and Wilson completely unaware of contemporary popular culture, since multiple scenes depend on them not knowing that “Professor Charles Xavier” is a fictional X-Men character. Ignoring the fact that Professor X isn’t a “contemporary” pop culture character at all, and would have been familiar to little boys in Vaughn and Wilson’s generation, how can The Internship play its heroes off as cool man-children if they haven’t seen a movie in over ten years? That’s not a joke you apply to party animal characters. That’s a joke you apply to workaholics who never get out of the office.
Speaking of workaholics: considering that later in the film the heroes actually watch the X-Men movies, who the hell plays Moira MacTaggart in X-Men: First Class inside this Internship universe, since Rose Byrne plays the workaholic love interest to Owen Wilson and not an actress named Rose Byrne? Is this one of those Last Action Hero situations, and her X-Men character is played by somebody else in the X-Men movie within this movie? If so, who did they cast? Did they get the same actress to replace Rose Byrne in Insidious? Is this just a good alternate reality in which to be Abbie Cornish, or is it just a monster coincidence that Owen Wilson’s love interest looks “exactly” like Rose Byrne, who actually exists as an actress in this universe? And if so, how come nobody points out that she looks exactly like Rose Byrne?
So the most interesting part of The Internship is just trying to figure out how all these bad ideas came together, and the only value this movie ultimately has is for screenwriting students who need a cheat sheet for a test on modern comedy clichés. It’s not excruciatingly bad – the actors are very likable and some of the jokes work well – but the filmmakers relied entirely on formulas that didn’t entirely apply to the movie they were making. The Internship is so contemptuously familiar, they should have called it “Comedy Movie: The Movie.”