Mark Reviews Movies

The Internship


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language)

Running Time: 1:59

Release Date: 6/7/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 6, 2013

Somewhere within The Internship, in the midst of the movie's extended message about what a great company a certain Internet corporation is (Considering that the entire movie fawns over said company, I feel obligated not to mention it specifically), is a comedy about the lengths to which people will go when they fall upon hard times. As much of a distraction as the movie's love letter to this company is, it is just that—a distraction. If we're able to ignore it (The movie does not make it easy), we can see how little there is here in terms of fulfilling its comic potential and living up to its commentary on the difficulties in the modern job market for people whose skills are becoming less viable.

As soon as the middle-aged protagonists arrive at (the wondrous playground—a slide into the lobby—of innovation—so many gadgets and programs that make life easier for the consumer—and perks—an area for napping during work hours, free food and drink from the cafeteria, and color-coordinated bicycles to roam around the campus—that is) the company where they take an unpaid internship with the hope of landing a full-time job, the screenplay by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern all but dismisses that latter element. With that dismissal, whatever capacity for comedy that comes from the characters and their predicament also vanishes.

Instead, the movie falls back on standard, lazy staples that have become so prevalent in American comedy: the seemingly improvised riffs on a given theme (Here, it's only a single line or word of dialogue that goes on and on—specifically, a character throws out a food item and the receiver repeats them in list form, adding each new item as it's tossed to him), popular culture references that vaguely fit a given situation (Here, it's a callback to Flashdance every time one of the lead characters has to make a motivational speech), and the awkward attempt to ensure every, intentionally underdeveloped character learns an important lesson about him or herself by the end of the movie. It's a format that puts an unfair burden upon the actors (especially members of the supporting cast), who, without the advantage of possessing much to work with in terms of characterization, are left scrambling to play up half-hearted jokes and overplay the most elements of their characters to compensate for the lack of an attainable goal.

The story focuses on Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson), two watch salesmen whose boss (John Goodman) shuts down the business because no one uses watches anymore. Without any useable job skills, Nick takes a job at a mattress store (providing an amusing, brief appearance by Will Ferrell—but mostly for a tattoo on his neck), and Billy, his girlfriend leaving him and his house foreclosed upon, desperately looks for any opportunity for work.

On a whim while browsing on an Internet search engine, he decides to do a search for the company that runs said search tool and finds out about an internship at the company. He convinces Nick to drop everything and move to San Francisco to take the opportunity.

The company runs their intern program like a competition. The interns, all of them—save for our protagonists—college students, are divided into teams and must complete challenges. The members of the winning team are guaranteed jobs. Nick and Billy are put with the rest of those who aren't chosen for other teams. There's Stuart (Dylan O'Brien), a sarcastic guy with his face always turned down to look at his phone, Neha (Tiya Sircar), a young woman who talks a good deal about sex but has never had a boyfriend, and Yo-Yo (Tophit Raphael), a homeschooled kid who plucks out the hair of his eyebrow when he does wrong. Their team is led by Lyle (Josh Brener), a young manager who tries far too much to impress others.

In between the excessive awe over the company's work environment and accomplishments, the movie veers between humor aimed at the cultural and age gap between Billy and Nick and their teammates and gags of the completely random variety, such as an extended game of land-based Quidditch (I thought we all agreed we were finished with that game) and a trip to a strip club (where the movie pushes its PG-13-level of innuendo with a montage of Yo-Yo receiving a lap dance and following it up with a trip to the bathroom to aim the hand dryer at his pants). Naturally, the older men have a lot to teach the kids about teamwork and such, and occasionally, Nick starts to learn some things about technology when he isn't stalking Dana (Rose Byrne)—albeit in that "cute" way that's "acceptable."

The movie works better than it might seem from the list of problems, and that's because it benefits from a cast that rises above the material's limitations. The Internship is yet another reminder that improvisation is a worthy tool for actors to possess but it's hardly a sturdy foundation for a feature-length movie—even one that's just an advertisement for a multinational corporation.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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