There should be a law against two-hour comedies as its extremely difficult to keep one continually afloat for such an extended period of time, especially given such a simple, one might even argue flimsy, premise. It’s not surprising that only half of The Internship works, but it is odd that the second-half is much better than the first. However, given that waterboarding would be a preferable form of torture to The Internship‘s first 45-minutes, anything would be an improvement.
Despite an underutilized charming cast, the script by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern reeks of desperation. Not only are our two leads desperate for jobs, but everyone in the film from the group’s lame mentor (Josh Brener, who can’t seem to utter a sentence without throwing in the word “zizzle” for all his homies) to the perfunctory mean kid (Max Minghella) all act out of a sense of desperation that’s nearly always far too pathetic to be funny. Throw in enough half-hearted and rushed jokes to get you booed off the stage at an open mike night, and you’ve got the makings for one of the lamest comedies of the year.
The story begins when two old-fashioned salesmen (Vaughn, Owen Wilson) find themselves out of work when their company folds while the pair are on a sales call. Despite having no marketable skills, Billy (Vaughn) convinces Nick (Wilson) to sign-up for an internship with Google in what may very well be the longest theatrical commercial ever produced. If Google has a product that isn’t heavily marketed throughout the film it’s not from lack of trying. However, given the film’s obnoxiously unfunny opening Google doesn’t come off like a place you might actually want to work out until more than an hour into the story (when all but the most masochistic members of the audience will have left the theater to demand their money back.
The basic fish out water premise finds the two old-timers paired with a group of nerds half their age (Tiya Sircar, Dylan O’Brien, Tobit Raphael) in competition with other teams in hopes of landing jobs with the company. Not surprisingly Nick and Billy are immediately ostracized only to later show their value by sharing their life experience and teaching, as well as learning from, their younger teammates.
Because the film needs more estrogen, we also get Rose Byrne as an executive who Nick falls for on first sight because he’s Owen Wilson, she’s Rose Byrne, and the script demands it. Setting up anything resembling a realistic situation is far too much to ask when cliche spruced up by setting the story in Google can been done much more easily. This is also one of those comedies where the group of misfits will find themselves in a strip club only to discover one of their crushes (Jessica Szohr) works there. Of course she does, and you know she’s been waiting for a nerd just like him.
Despite the film’s nausea-inducing prolonged set-up, once Nick and Billy actually become part of the team and The Internship moves into your run-of-the-mill team competitions things start to improve. Sure, the heavy-handed life lessons could be handled a little better, but it’s not like anyone involved here was hired for their subtlety. We also get a weird reference to an 80’s film that doesn’t quite fit (which seems to be the new thing to do in recent by-the-book Hollywood comedies) and an unnecessary late motivational issue with one of the stars to create conflict where it really isn’t needed.
Aside from making its stars unlikable for far too much of the film, The Internship also wastes the talents of John Goodman, Aasif Mandvi, and Will Ferrell in thankless roles. The film falls down far too often with the talent is has to play with. Even if the movie’s second-half has its moments, I can’t recommend anyone spending money on this (or even watching the entirety on cable, for that matter). Given its attempt to trap the audience in a theater without any attempt to offer them succor, “The Internment” might have made for a more apt title.