Internship, The (2013)


Director:  Shawn Levy
Cast:  Vince VaughnOwen WilsonRose Byrne
Plot:  Two salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital age find their way into a coveted internship at Google, where they must compete with a group of young, tech-savvy geniuses for a shot at employment.

Genre:  Comedy
Awards:  -
Runtime:  119min
Rating:  PG13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language.

IN RETROSPECT (Guest Review by Raymond Tan)
Do we need a movie that’s little more than a two-hour paean to Google?  Probably not, but that didn’t stop director Shawn Levy and writers Vince Vaugn and Jared Stern from making The Internship, a movie that is long on product placement and short on actual humour, heart and creativity.

There are more than a few decent ideas contained in the movie.  As the movie opens, Bill (Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson), buddies who both sell watches for the same company, are retrenched.  These two have few skills.  They are blessed with a silver tongue, and little else.  But worst of their inadequacies has to be their absolute cluelessness regarding anything technology related.  They are, as their boss calls them, “dinosaurs”.

The movie could have been a portrait of two working-class Gen X-ers forced to reckon with changing economic forces.  Making comedy out of something sad or depressing can be cathartic. But the problem is that the film isn’t funny – I laughed maybe five times, maximum.  Worse still, the film ends up trivializing all the struggles that our two goofballs have.

Desperate for a job, our lovable losers decide to apply for an internship at Google, and so technologically backward are they, they have to do their online interview via a computer at the library.  Their excuse is that they don’t have a webcam at home;  their interviewers gamely buy it.  In reality, Google’s HR execs would nary bat an eyelid at their applications much less even bother conducting an online interview with them.  Bill, apparently living in the prehistoric age, doesn’t know what “online” means.  He calls that “on the line”.  Where has he been living the past 10 years?  In a cave?

Still, by a strange turn of luck, they end up in the Google internship programme.  Within the first hour of orientation, internship applicants have to form groups to compete against each other;  the winning group scores an internship with the internet titans.  These two end up forming a group with a bunch of oddball nerds (Dylan O’Brien, Tobit Raphael, Tiya Sircar), and they have to overcome the odds to succeed in claiming the prize.  Sounds familiar?

Had the filmmakers had guts to take the premise through and see Nick and Bill truly struggling to survive in a brave new world – one in which they have to deal with not only prejudice from other applicants, but a stark awareness their own expendability – the movie could have been an interesting exploration of middle-age struggles.  Instead, the filmmakers are quick to affirm Nick and Bill’s worth, presenting them as Cool Bros who will help their teammates come out of their shell.  Yes, our tech-retard leading pair may be dumb, but their street smarts make up for it all!

In an offensive turn of events, these two decide they have to school their teammates in the ways of the world (yes, because computer whizzes are all repressed sociopaths lacking in life experience!) and bring them to a club, where said teammates get drunk, fraternize with pole-dancers and get into fights, and after which Bill and Nick proceed to joke about the outing with their teammates.  

Did it ever occur to the filmmakers that computer whizzes don’t do shit like that not because they’re cloistered, sheltered sociopaths, but because they’re too smart to waste their lives?  Instead, they present the entire incident as a ritual by which these nerds gain enlightenment or something.  It’s condescending and offensive.

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have a winsome charm and an easy comic-chemistry between them.  But charisma only takes a movie so far, and the film’s fatal error is its reliance on charisma and neglect of actual writing.  By the end, one realizes that while Vaughn and Wilson are tremendously likable, the real star is of the film is undoubtedly Google.

Rating:  2.5 stars

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