You may have seen The Onion skewering of The Internship as a fantastic film for 2005. It’s pretty funny, but the truth of the matter is this isn’t a 2005 film. It isn’t a 2013 film either. This is an 80s movie and it’s damn proud of it. There’s everything an 80s film could want: a sports montage, a preppy enemy, romance, underdogs and a ridiculous competition.
If you’ve seen the trailers for the film you were probably expecting some of the same old pap that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have been delivering for the past 10 years. It was funny once, but the shtick is getting old, right? Well, The Internship is the same old pap, but it isn’t their pap, it’s the 1980’s pap.
Now that we’ve used the word pap more times than it should be used ever, we’ll find out if the 1980s are worth revisiting.
Director: Shawn Levy
Release Date: June 7, 2013
Here’s the nearly unbelievably set up of The Internship: two sales guys, Billy Mcmahon (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson), who have been hocking fancy watches and not learning about computers, find themselves out of jobs so they turn to a Google internship program. Somehow they get in and then are put into a team of misfits to compete for jobs at Google through a series of tests (one of which is inexplicably a game of quidditch). This is most likely not how Google really does things, but it is how movies do things.
Despite the fact that there are a plethora of teams only their team and the evil team, led by preppy English genius Graham Hawtrey (Max Mingella), end up actually winning anything. Thus the two take their underdog team and their extreme lack of knowledge about any technology and start learning life lessons, cracking wise and teaching those darn kids how to live a little. Also, Nick falls in love with the sexy, smart and attractive Google manager Dana (Rose Byrne).
You could really take this plot and replace Google internship with any competitive activity. In fact the plot has probably been done a hundred times over with almost every other competitive activity already. There is almost nothing special about The Internship, and yet it wallows in its own cliche so well that you can’t help but get caught up in it. Like the best of the 80s films, The Internship wears its heart blatantly on its sleeve and reaffirms that being yourself is always the best. It desperately shouts that we can all just get along (especially if we have an awesome workplaces like Google HQ). There’s nothing deep or original here, but it feels good enough that you get caught up in it, and that is actually something that is an impressive feat in the jaded youth culture that the film so obviously wants to tear down.
The comedy in the film is much the same. Almost entirely inoffensive, unlike a certain apocalyptic movie coming out next week, the raunchiness of Wedding Crashers has been replaced with jokes at the expense of 40-somethings who somehow can’t use a webcam. While that specific example doe sound awful — and really it should be — it’s all done in such a way that it instead comes of as endearing. The film is constantly letting you know that it knows exactly what it is through nods to classic 80s films, and as such it gets away with a lot. Its comedy isn’t anything that’s going to roll you on the floor as you desperately try to get air, but it’s honest enough to still be funny. While much of it may feel a bit dated, it impressively never comes off as crass.
Wilson and Vaughn are also surprisingly restrained in the film. Vaughn, whose arrogant shtick ran out of gas a few years ago, is actually humorous. Ditching the bawdy humor for stuff that’s a bit more laid back makes his style feel fresh instead of desperate. Wilson is really still Wilson, straight man to the best of em’, but that guy fits wonderfully into an 80s film. The rest of the cast is a bunch of youthful folk who play into their cookie cutter roles just fine as they learn important life lessons about looking up from their cell phones and taking risks. They aren’t the most challenging of roles, but every stereotype is good for a laugh or two and none of it feels like they’re being mean spirited.
The downside to The Internship is that nothing really stands out. You may come away from it with your heart warmed and your feel-good comedy spot hit, but you won’t come away from it remembering anything. It’s hard to remember a truly solid punchline or joke from the film, and really the most memorable moment is seeing Jessica Szohr in lingerie. The biggest compliment you can give The Internship is that it works. When the obligatory mass celebration and public triumph comes around you’re right there with it in the moment. It’s just that the moment after that you’ve basically forgotten it.