Despite the fact that Fox's marketing department is taking healthy advantage of the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson nouveau-"Wedding Crashers" reunion — especially with its "Crash the System" tagline — beware: "The Internship" is not an all-out romp like that previous gagfest. It's a little more thoughtful about its intentions that perhaps too proudly wears its heart on its sleeve.
Directed by Shawn Levy, Vaughn and Wilson play Billy and Nick, veteran watch salesmen who work for John Goodman but are forced to look for new jobs when his company goes under. Everyone, it seems checks the time on their phones these days.
As Goodman warns them, "It ain't pretty out there and you guys are dinosaurs."
The expected problems ensue: Vaughn's house is quickly foreclosed on, and his girlfriend leaves him for disappointing her yet again. Fortunately, inspiration strikes over a Miller Lite (product placement alert … in a movie whose whole storyline is a product placement!), as he starts googling (see!) "sales jobs" before adding the phrase: "for people with few skills."
After a very brief stint working for his tattooed brother-in-law at a mattress store, Nick agrees to join Billy at the bottom of the corporate ladder and intern at (here we go again) Google, where the comic duo are forced to team up with an odd group of loners (Dylan O'Brien, Tiya Sircar, Tobit Raphael and Josh Brener) to compete against dozens of young brainiacs trying to prove their "Googliness" and secure a coveted full-time position at the tech giant.
Google is depicted as not just another corporation but rather, one big nerdy family. The staffers take great pride in connecting people to information, hoping to improve their lives in some small way. Unfortunately, this didn't prove so good for Billy and Nick, curtailing their natural proclivity to BS customers who could now look up the truth online, or, "on the line," as they might say.
Unfortunately, rather than feeling focused on comedy, it seems concerned with confronting middle-class workers' fears for their jobs in a volatile economy, and the fact they are seemingly punished for playing it safe. At one point, one character asks, "Aren't you tired of asking for just enough to get by?"
Along with the gags, the film preaches resilience, belief in one's potential and the willingness to pick oneself up from a setback, regardless off the odds.Vaughn and Wilson are quickly thrown into "a mental Hunger Games" to test their teamwork, helpfulness and salesmanship, as well as app-building and coding skills.
Though the odd men out at Google, Billy and Nick try to teach their younger counterparts how to loosen up and live a little.
Having a wild ride yet?
Vaughn, who earns sole story credit here and co-wrote the screenplay with Jared Stern, gives himself the best comic moments. Delivered with rapid-fire delivery, it works especially well early on, giving the movie a strong start — as does his easy, likable chemistry with Wilson, which is established in the opening scene's funny singalong to Alanis Morissette.
But eventually "The Internship's" real problem is its reliance on Vaughn and Wilson. That's no slight to Rose Byrne and Max Minghella, who play Wilson's love interest and the movie's arrogant antagonist, respectively. Both make the most of rather one-note characters. Though some sparks fly in the single scene that allows them to make a cute connection, the romance between Wilson and Byrne plays like an afterthought.
"The Internship" (which opens Friday) also tries a bit too hard with the pop-culture references, from "The Terminator to "Gossip Girl" and "Game of Thrones," as well as excessive love for "Flashdance" and Fox's "X-Men" franchise. There's also a quidditch scene in tribute to the "Harry Potter" series. There are also the requisite scenes of bar fights and strip club mayhem that have become staples in studio comedies.
At one point in the film, Gad's character tells Vaughn, "You have a way with people. It's a lost art." That's true for the actor as well. Even in bombs like "The Dilemma" and "The Watch," Vaughn has a way of elevating material and making even the worst-written scenes pop with energy.
Wilson, for his part, plays the affable straight man like no other and his laid-back shtick provides the perfect balance to Vaughn's over-caffeinated motor-mouth. This is, at least, miles better than Vaughn's recent pairings with Kevin James and Ben Stiller in "The Dilemma" and "The Watch," respectively.