Pleasant, affable, good-natured… The Internship isn’t very good – and as a comedy, it’s just about a complete failure – but it’s so darn eager to please that it becomes almost impossible to dislike. Bland and formulaic to a fault, this is certainly no Wedding Crashers (the uproarious previous pairing of stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn) but it has its own lightweight appeal.
It also might hold some kind of record for longest sustained product placement in a film. The Internship might as well be called The Google Movie: Google features as a key plot device, its logo is plastered through a good portion of the film, and the company – and everyone who works there – can do no wrong. Sample dialogue, upon entering Google offices: “Picture the best amusement park you went to as a kid…now imagine a place a million times better!”
Google is where Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) turn after losing their sales jobs due to the economic crunch. As the title implies, they don’t immediately get work with the company; instead, they apply for the internship program, which is only open to college students (the pair enrolls in the University of Phoenix online). They get through because, hey, aren’t those bosses at Google so wise and prescient, seeing potential talent in these older gentlemen with no IT skills or education?
The internship program, of course, doesn’t seem to involve much IT work. Or making copies, or getting coffee (which, by the way, is free from Starbucks – along with all the food you can eat – at those wonderful Google offices!) No, the Google internship is, of course, a Hunger Games-like tournament that even involves a game of Quidditch (ain’t Google just zany!) Winner takes all, which in this case means a job.
This internship competition requires a team, and Nick and Billy find themselves with some fellow outcasts: team leader Lyle (Josh Brener), a Google employee who believed in the pair; negative Stuart (Dylan O’Brien); nerdy Neha (Tiya Sircar); and strange, mother-dominated Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael). Overseeing the internship program is the strict Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi).
Because the story needs some kind of bad guy – and no one employed at Google could possibly be bad – fellow intern Graham (Max Minghella) fills the role as our protagonists’ chief competition in the program. Single-minded in his cruelty – as if his nastiness would lead to a job – Graham is a curious addition to this otherwise good-natured film; poor Minghella, a talented actor among this surprisingly decent cast, struggles with this one-dimensional characterization.
And because this buddy comedy needs a romantic subplot to further pad out the excessive running time (at at full two hours, this is a good 20 minutes too long), Nick meets cute, work-obsessed Google executive Dana (Rose Byrne). While The Internship is far from a rom-com, their brief scenes together actually turn into some of the better material in the film (Billy, on the other hand, loses his girlfriend at the outset and the movie never bothers to find him a replacement).
Apart from the Minghella character’s crassness, The Internship is a remarkably warm-hearted film: as Billy and Nick prove their worth and bring their team together, there’s agreeably pleasant tone throughout the story – formulaic as it may be – that makes this almost impossible to dislike. The corporate influence probably had a lot to do with that; there’s so much Google love going on here that there’s little room for any negativity.
Only problem: as a comedy, this thing falls completely flat. Continuing a theme in mainstream comedy (see also: Identity Thief, The Hangover Part III), there isn’t a single written joke in Vaughn and Jared Stern’s screenplay; whatever humor there is comes from Shawn Levy’s broad direction and the combined efforts of the cast.
John Goodman, Will Ferrell, Rob Riggle and others turn up in cameos intended to provide some laughs, but they just don’t have the material to make it work. The same script could have been played completely straight, and it probably would have been funnier.