Quite frankly, I was initially going to review “The Internship” in a completely different way – maybe even go on a little rant – but after a bit of consideration I decided to restrain myself a tad and come at this film from a slightly different angle. I believe that any genre film deserves a fair trial and regardless of how much I might have disliked it, I’d like to have a look at it in a way that would showcase everything (if any) a given film has to offer. Additionally, since I have been doing virtually the same with horrors and Sci-Fi, in the interest of consequence, I should attempt to apply the same standards when reviewing comedies; that’s the scientist in me begging to standardize and objectify (is that even a word) my world-view…
Now, there are exactly two ways to make a successful comedy, or any genre film for that matter: the film has to either obey the rules of genre and capitalize on all its assets, while confining originality to very focused areas, or to go all-in and think outside the box in hopes to add a brand new idea/angle/sub-genre to the pot. Understandably, the latter is much more difficult to pull off, because not every genre handles freshness well, and not every revolting, new, genre-redefining idea works (more often than not, the idea itself would work, only in a different pair of hands) to create a film worth watching.
So, my personal issues aside, “The Internship” didn’t do a particularly good job at squeezing into either of the two categories. It’s not as if this film failed completely as a comedy, because I did have some fun watching it, and that’s pretty much the goal of any comedy – maybe not so much to make you laugh, but to make you feel a bit better – just as it is any horror film’s goal to disturb you in some fashion. I might add here that since my lovely wife enjoyed “The Internship” quite a bit more than I did, I could consider a possibility that I might have grown too cynical for my own liking. In fact, it is very instructive to see that, based solely on a person’s prior knowledge of the film and/or the actors and film-makers, the film’s perception could vary as substantially. I shouldn’t really disregard the fact that I was fully aware of this film’s reception by the critics and the general populace.
Nevertheless, I’m sad to say that the newest creation of the Vince Vaughn – Owen Wilson dynamic duo fell short in its attempt to dazzle my senses. For sake of completeness, “The Internship” on its face looks like a full-feature length Google advertisement. Granted, the days of withholding unnecessary product placements in films are long gone with glowing apples being featured in some way or another in virtually any romantic comedy, so it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, Google has become such a big part of the internet revolution that it was only a matter of time before we would start seeing the Google logo everywhere on the silver screen, so I don’t really have a problem with that.
In the film, we are introduced to Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson), a pair of salesmen who are suddenly laid off work. They immediately realize that the world has changed dramatically and their previous line of work (and the only thing they are good at), bullshitting people into buying stuff, is all but obsolete in the age of the Internet. Therefore, they decide to hop on the web wagon and go on to work for one of the biggest players in the Internet industry – Google. Well, ‘work’ is a bit far-fetched because in order to have a shot at working for the Silicon Valley giant, Nick and Billy need to enroll on an internship (probably unpaid) and compete for the precious jobs with hundreds of young, aspiring and energetic young minds.
I think the main reason I didn’t get as much out of “The Internship” as I would have liked is due to the fact that a single shtick can work only so many times before it goes stale. And sadly, we’ve seen it all before in “Wedding crashers” and “Starsky and Hutch”. While they are different in terms of the formula and plot, I dare say that at this point in time, another Wilson/Vaughn duo comedy could not go down very well. As a result, Wilson and Vaughn in “The Internship” are just doing their thing and when you’re used to doing things certain way, or – God forbid – the director specifically expects you to do what you know best, any creativity goes out the window.
In simplest terms, “The Internship” is a very formulaic buddy comedy with a strong ‘fish out of the water’ theme. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that, but any genre film needs an element that the viewer will keep in focus and most often we’d like to see a vivid set of characters on screen that run at the forefront of things. While Vaughn/Wilson thing might have worked in the past, recreating the same dynamism the viewers are familiar with without throwing in anything fresh into the fray is a recipe for a disaster.
Do you know that feeling when you sit at a family gathering and your dad goes on to tell the same bloody joke he tells every single year? You know everybody knows it… Nobody wants your dad to feel embarrassed, so everybody smiles politely, maybe your uncle chuckles a bit, but for the most part you feel mortified for having witnessed it and deep down your inside voice whispers ‘Oh, God… Dad, please stop…’ But, no! He has to finish the joke and, of course, he’s laughing the loudest while you wish you could turn back time and leave the room.
That’s exactly how I felt nearly every time Vaughn and Wilson were on the screen doing their thing, whether it was singing in the car, or trying to impress the young geeky prodigies – I just wished they would stop. Sure, there may have been a joke or two that I found enjoyable, but their prolonged spiels I found deeply annoying, because the smoke those two were blowing diverted the attention from quite funny and potentially interesting side-line characters.
As a result, “The Internship” has become yet another generic comedy about two guys trying to cope with an unusual situation. Everything about this film is quite predictable and there’s nothing wrong about that, so long as it’s funny. Any formulaic comedy’s success rides on that card, be it through situation humor, or creative use of the comedic characters, or anything else… Without that it’s a bland inedible mush. The fact that the Wilson/Vaughn duo made absolutely no effort to rake in the laughs (after all, we’ve seen it all before) while overpowering the stage with their personas has effectively destroyed every shred of potential “The Internship” might have had. In theory, it could have been a nice and light comedy about the generation gap and older guys trying to ‘geek out’ in order to survive, but because Vaughn and Wilson have been doing their comedy for so long, it’s nigh impossible to see anything refreshing or light in the way they do comedy, unless you haven’t seen them together on the screen before, like my wife. And she loved it.
That’s the bottom line: “The Internship” can pass for a nice and funny comedy. However, if you had seen any comedy with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in it, you’d better go and spend your money somewhere else, because there’s nothing new in it that would make it worth your while.