Both movies have at least two things in common, if not much else: both star Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, playing their usual ultra-hip slickster and laid-back surfer dude personas, respectively, and both are comedies. But the similarities stop there. “Wedding Crashers” was lewd, crude and riotously funny, while “The Internship” is flat, predictable and — perhaps most notably — achingly formulaic.
Give the movie props for this much, at least: the semi-amusing premise might have worked. Vaughn and Wilson play a couple of fast-talking salespeople who get sacked by their employer (John Goodman, in his second thankless role of the summer, following “The Hangover Part III”) at the outset. Distraught but always looking forward, they shmooze their way into a summer internship at Google, where they’re forced to compete with a number of tech-savvy compu-nerds half their age for a full-time gig.
If the rumors surrounding “The Internship” are true, the filmmakers had the full support of Google to film inside their complex, which the movie makes look like a candy-colored playground for adults. Not surprisingly, that makes the film feel like a two-hour infomercial for the billion-dollar search engine, though it should be mentioned that “The Internship” also manages to poke a little fun at the idyllic nature of the Google compound, where volleyball and napping appear to be mandatory.
It’s in the scripting where “The Internship” runs into the most trouble. Co-writers Vaughn and Jared Stern (“The Watch”) have muddied the movie’s good intentions with a run-of-the-mill plot that plays like a “Revenge of the Nerds”-style fantasy with the dorkiest kids in the intern program looking to triumph over the suck-uppy “cool” kids (led by Max Minghella, in a Magnificent Bastard role that is reminiscent of Bradley Cooper in “Crashers”). It’s all incredibly familiar, made even worse by a couple of hateful cameos by Will Ferrell and Rob Riggle, playing the same loud, arrogant creeps they play in every movie.
When “The Internship” deviates from the script — which is to say when Vaughn and Wilson appear to be ad-libbing — the movie does muster up a couple of semi-decent chuckles. Anybody who babbles on as much as Vaughn does is sure to cough up one or two decent one-liners within the blathering. But, even then, the laughs seem wrong because they usually make no sense within the context of the scene.
Maybe the film would have been funnier if Wilson and Vaughn weren’t restricted by the confines of the PG-13 rating (God bless comedies like “Wedding Crashers” and “Old School” that still have the cojones to go hard-R in this age of pandering to teenage moviegoers). What we have, instead, is a moderately amusing movie that squanders its potential with lame jokes about Professor X and dated references to “Flashdance” and Quidditch.
If you love Vaughn and Wilson as much as I do, that’s all the more reason to take a pass on “The Internship.”
★★ out of ★★★★
Rated PG-13 for language and a scene in a strip club. 119 minutes, 2013.
Director: Shawn Levy. Starring: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson.
Read all of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews at AFistfulofPopcorn.com.