The Great Recession has reshaped the scope of the marketplace. On one end, you’ve got baby boomers slow to retire before they recoup their savings. On the other, you have technology-fluent millennials who have never had to use a pay phone. Generation X is caught in the middle, facing a sobering reality that is the focus of “The Internship,” a comic film about two unemployed 40-somethings forced to adapt to today’s brave new world.
It’s been eight years since Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson teamed up in 2005’s “Wedding Crashers,” and watching them square off against dozens of snarky 20-somethings in “The Internship,” it’s jarring to realize they’ve each been on the big screen for close to 20 years now. In Shawn Levy’s “The Internship,” their roles are basically slightly older versions of the two infamous womanizers if they were crossed with Bill and Ted on one of their excellent adventures.
Vaughn and Wilson play Billy and Nick, a pair of watch salesmen in their mid-40s who are thrust into the unforgiving modern world when their boss decides to close up shop and cash in his retirement. After a couple of unsuccessful tries to ply their sales skills elsewhere, in desperation they wind up in a competitive summer internship at Google.
The fact that the internship is actually portrayed as Google, and not at a fictitious tech company, is significant. For one, it puts the company squarely in the crosshairs as the film examines the shortcomings of the digital world. At the same time, it also acts as a two-hour product placement for that behemoth of Internet companies.
From day one, Billy and Nick are the classic fishes out of water, awkward dinosaurs trying to survive a series of team challenges that expose their lack of digital savvy. The prize? Real jobs at Google, the dynamic corporate wonderland with nap pods and volleyball pits. The competition? Dozens of super-smart 20-year-olds from Ivy League schools who substitute cynicism for wisdom.
Brushed off by their peers for being old and out of touch, Billy and Nick eventually get teamed up with a few other outcasts, and “The Internship” quickly becomes a predictable underdog story that cautions us not to lose our people skills in the rush to polish our coding skills.
As you would expect, Vaughn and Wilson are on display front and center, and given ample opportunity to improvise with their co-stars (who include supporting turns from Will Ferrell and John Goodman). At times the riffing can get tedious, and at a 119-minute runtime, the audience may wish a few scenes had wound up as extras on the DVD instead. But there are plenty of worthwhile comic moments, including odd pop culture references to ‘80s films like “Flashdance” and a bizarro homage to Harry Potter’s Quidditch game.
While “The Internship” has some poignant things to say about the modern corporate world, it also has a very modern way of getting its point across. Parents should note the high levels of vulgarity, profanity and sexual content that pervade the film. While it never officially reaches the R-rated territory of “Wedding Crashers,” “The Internship” is still no film for children. It has a good heart, but it requires a thick skin to get to it.
“The Internship” is rated PG-13 for consistent profanity and pervasive sexual and vulgar content, including one usage of the F-word and a lengthy sequence inside a strip club (where no one actually strips). There is also some comic violence.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on the "KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English Composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com.