20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language.
Running time: 119 minutes.
One and a half stars out of four.
“The Internship” reunites Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, stars of the smash hit “Wedding Crashers,” with glimmers of their old banter and none of the bite.
Similar to Eddie Murphy’s hard right turn from daring and profane comedy to family-friendly romps, Vaughn and Wilson have gone all soft and gooey here. Maybe it’s an inevitable product of getting older and having to adapt to survive; maybe they genuinely wanted to try on the father-figure role for size. Either way, it’s entirely too safe and not enough fun, keeping it squarely within the confines of director Shawn Levy’s oeuvre (the “Night at the Museum” movies, “Real Steel”).
Essentially a two-hour-long promo for Google – as if the ubiquitous search engine needed it – “The Internship” finds Vaughn and Wilson out of work as longtime watch salesmen when the iPhone makes their product obsolete, according to their no-nonsense boss (a woefully underused John Goodman). This is actually a rare, insightful nugget within the premise; the rest of the movie is feel-good fluff.
Vaughn’s fast-talking Billy McMahon (as if there were any other kind of Vaughn character) tracks down Wilson’s Nick Campbell at the mattress store where he’s stuck working _ the best scene in the whole movie, thanks to Will Ferrell as Wilson’s boss. Billy tells his longtime pal he’s lined up an interview for them … to intern at Google. If they’re accepted for the summer, they’ll have to compete against hundreds of brilliant and far more technologically savvy college students for the chance at full-time gigs.
Naturally, they get in, and find themselves functioning as tried-and-true fish out of water in this familiar formula. Also totally unsurprisingly, the Google campus itself is depicted as a rainbow-hued Shangri-La by the bay, with sand volleyball courts and bike sharing, free snacks and nap pods.
Immediately, Billy and Nick get lumped in with the other misfits, including perky cosplay girl Neha (a hugely likable Tiya Sircar) and meek homeschooler Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael). Among the other supporting cast, Max Minghella is the arbitrary bully of the intern class, Aasif Mandvi is the program’s condescending coordinator and Rose Byrne is the uptight, overworked Google exec with whom Nick has a thoroughly unbelievable romance. (This needless subplot seriously reeks of pandering to female filmgoers.)
A few scattered laughs aside, “The Internship” is mostly way too lame and predictable, with the outcasts banding together to beat the smug shoo-ins. It’s also a good, solid 20 minutes too long, with one or two challenges too many, one or two montages too many. Individual scenes that might have had some clever notions in them drag on, as well. The night Billy and Nick’s team has a spontaneous outing on the Google bus to San Francisco — and ends up at the tamest strip club in the history of mankind in this decidedly PG-13 affair – features a couple of amusing ideas but then feels as if it will never end.
It’s as if everyone involved, including Vaughn as co-screenwriter, was so enamored of their precious comic gems that they couldn’t possibly jettison any of them for the sake of lean and lively storytelling.
Vaughn and Wilson still share an easy chemistry, despite the weakened material. The actors retain a firm grasp on their respective personae: Vaughn is the brash but charismatic smart-ass who’s always hustling, while Wilson is the laid-back and wryly sardonic sidekick who woos the women with sweetness. No one is stretching very far or wandering outside of his comfort zone. But the edge that made “Wedding Crashers” such a thrill – the selfishness and slight meanness that made these guys such a crackling team – has been obliterated with a few simple keystrokes.