Film review: THE INTERNSHIP, from Built For Speed

Few things kill a film’s credibility quicker than gratuitous product placement. The sense of a purely commercial imperative invading a film is about as palatable as a bucket of cold sick. The Internship, the latest film for Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan, takes product placement to a new and disturbing level. We don’t just have an ad placed in a film we have a film placed within an ad. The Internship is basically an ad for Google and while this reviewer will always endeavour to see beyond specific irritating elements of a film and appraise its overall cinematic quality, it’s hard not to be distracted by this corporate sell.

Vaughan and Wilson play two slick salesmen Billy and Nick who, like so many victims of the ongoing economic crisis, lose their jobs and wind up on the scrap heap. In suspiciously similar fashion to Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in Stripes they hit upon a radical employment idea; not the army but an internship beside uni students half their age at Google.  There, Interns wear silly pin-wheel hats and work, train and undergo challenges in teams for a summer in the hope of scoring a job. As ancient luddites, Vaughan and Wilson are rejected from every team except the most dysfunctional misfit nerds.  As the two goofballs and their team battle through their internship, the film takes every opportunity to flog Google products and the brand.

Co-written by Vince Vaughan, this film not only has a disturbing corporate aroma but it’s also disappointingly formulaic.  You don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that the two middle-aged guys will impart misguided life lessons and 80’s party animal attitudes to the uptight nerds, that they’ll do battle with an arrogant bully (Max Minghella), that Vince Vaughan will try and bail out of the situation, that Owen Wilson will beseech him to stay so he can worm his way into the heart of a pretty colleague (Rose Byrne) and that Vaughan will get beaten up.

Vaughan and Wilson clearly hope to repeat the success of their 2005 pairing in The Wedding Crashers but this film is unlikely to connect with audiences in the same way. Aside from a hilarious cameo from Will Ferrell as a sleazy, goatee-bearded, neck-tattooed mattress salesman and the fact that Vaughan’s character is named Billy McMahon, The Internship is simply not as funny as The Wedding Crashers.  The gags are mostly familiar, predictable and reliant on the culture clash between the “ancient” 40-somethings and the smart-assed youngsters. Some of the gags are patently ridiculous, for example, at one point the kids send Billy and Nick all over town looking for a wheelchair-bound Professor Xavier.  Are we really supposed to believe that the two older guys wouldn’t know about the X-men a comic that the started in the 60’s and a movie franchise that began 13 years ago?  If that’s not bad enough, the film takes us into stratospheric heights of disbelief when Nick and Billy appear not to know who Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are.   Their only pop-cultural reference point seems to be the lamentable Flashdance which Vaughan repeatedly namedrops in interminable and unfunny pep talks.

Also, with Vaughan’s babbling, some gags are incomprehensible and seem to go on forever. A few of the jokes are also hypocritical, for example, the film rightly condemns Minghella for belittling an obese teammate but it also makes fun of another overweight person.

This film almost lures us in with its seemingly empathetic view of middle-aged people’s fear and confusion in a rapidly changing, tech-savvy world full of young arrogant digital natives.  Unfortunately, this film suggests that the aforementioned corporation will save these befuddled ageing slobs and open up for them a wonderful new world of profit and convenience.  The film tries to sell this idea through dialogue that resembles the nauseating, sanctimonious, quasi-philosophical drivel we hear in smart phone commercials.

The laconic Wilson and the over-confident Vaughan (despite his unintelligible manic babbling) are still very likeable guys and enjoyable to watch but the cringe-worthy corporate pandering and a plot that seems to have been created by a smartphone app make this film a very uncomfortable experience.


Nick’s rating: Two stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Shawn Levy

Release date: 13th June 2013

Running time:  119 mins.


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