Before I was even invited to my advanced screening of The Internship – the new Vince Vaughn / Owen Wilson comedy – The Onion had already nailed what seemed so lame about it just from the ads. That the film starred these actors, who had top-lined several movies from the so-called Frat Pack in the mid-aughts before fading out of style, made The Internship feel like a relic of the past.
But here’s the deal – I love the Frat Pack, as much today as I did when I graduated from High School in 2006 (I will not rest until a Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story gets the proper sequel and the second and third sequels it deserves). So this should have been a slam dunk.
But it turns out The Internship isn’t a Frat Pack movie – or at best, it’s a hybrid Frat Pack feature.
More than that, The Internship is a Shawn Levy feature. If you don’t know that name, you might be surprised to discover that since Levy hit it big in Hollywood just over a decade ago, his movies have grossed damn near $2 billion worldwide.
His secret? Levy is a master of the gooey-good-feelings that are more concentrated in any one of his features than in an entire season of Full House. That’s not to say any of his moments earn their emotional moments, but he does make them go down silky smooth. Over the course of several summers working as a camp counselor, I saw his Cheaper by the Dozen probably a dozen times, and while it was never particularly watchable in the first place, it didn’t become less watchable with each pass..
His influence is very easy to read in The Internship. It tracks Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) – salesmen who get unceremoniously laid off – as they luck into a prestigious internship at Google. Working with college students half their age, they’re forced to tackle a heavy workload despite knowing nothing about computers or the internet. But more importantly, they have to learn something about themselves.
Billy is unmotivated and never reaches for his dreams, we are told! And Nick should get a steady girlfriend, we are told! I don’t want to spoil you as to whether either character is able move past their character flaws, so I’ll stop recapping the plot right here.
The setting at Google can’t help but feel weird. Google has been so omni-present in the news for the past ten years that everyone has their own baggage on what the company means before sitting down to watch the movie. And the fluidity of the mentions of Google products reek of product placement. Do I really need a character with no other lines to spend two sentences explaining what Google Translate is? (Full disclosure – I wrote my first draft of this review in Google Drive.)
There are a lot of things that work against the Internship, but they’re all buoyed up one simple element – Vaughn and Wilson are endlessly easy to watch. Their shtick might not work for everyone, but I found myself most content when Vaughn yammered on for beats talking in no particular direction. It’s not a matter of good acting, it’s just uncut charisma let loose without getting lost in translation.
It coalesces into a meaningless, hollow comedy that is shockingly easy to watch. Even at two hours – far too long for most comedies – The Internship isn’t just not-grating, it’s kind of enjoyable.