‘I’ ON CULTURE
The real problem with The Internship is that it really is too Old School. Remember that funny film where middle-age men wound up as fish out of water on a college campus? In this new movie, two men who are even older wind up competing with some of the so-called brightest young people in America. They are technoboobs who are accepted because of a stated “need for diversity,” presumably a need for total idiots. And, of course, being a Hollywood version of the story, they learn what they need to know over the course of a summer internship and triumph over recent engineering graduates who have been programming for years.
That said, the movie was reasonably amusing, although perhaps not enough to warrant the cost of admission. Nick (Owen Wilson) and Billy (Vince Vaughn) are two expert salesmen who discover that their company has collapsed while they’ve been on the road. With no product to sell, Nick goes into a nightmare job selling mattresses while Billy finagles an interview for an internship with Google in which they come off like morons. This leads one of the managers, Lyle (Josh Brener), to support their chances. Unfortunately, most of the movie after that point is one long commercial for the company. Some ex-Googlers (and, yes, that’s what they call themselves) have commented that the way of life shown in the film is quite accurate: free food, nap pods, bicycles everywhere.
Following standard protocol, these two losers are grouped with other losers: those considered too strange to belong to anyone. There is the home-schooled Asian Yo-Yo Santos (Tobit Raphael), who has actually been bullied by his mother; the geek Stuart Twombly, who instead of interacting with people has his nose in his smartphone (Dylan O’Brien); as well as the hip-hop, nonstop talking girl Neha Patel who acts like a swinger but has experienced nothing (Tiya Sircar). Led by Lyle, who’s young enough to be the son of either of the stars, they attempt to compete in a series of often bizarre challenges. And, as expected, they manage to teach the young people who are their partners about life and love while learning a lot about themselves.
Unless you have missed a long series of movies going back to Animal House (and perhaps earlier), you know that the underdogs will win, those who start off with advantages will be humiliated and the audience can feel good. Of course, all we have to do is suspend reality. Google is a huge company; why hire only techie geeks when they might also need sales personnel and possibly even people in human resources who could assist those who are socially awkward? Right now we all read about millions spent by the Internal Revenue Service in training sessions that involve line dancing, etc. A company such as Google almost certainly does a better job.
Wilson and Vaughn are great as the two leads. They have a great natural chemistry, and their quips back and forth add enormous flavor to the film. Their chemistry becomes a natural source for finding a way to really like them. Their relationship with their partners in the challenge helps save the film from its greatest problem: the stereotyping of the geeks. They take them out to a strip club, which quickly reveals how lost the very bright kids are when facing real life, and the two older heads help every one of the kids.
The film is far too much of a commercial for the company. Google forced the producers to censor a scene in which an experimental driverless car crashes. Life at the company is idyllic; the people are all brilliant, if a bit weird in a nice way. There is no mention of Google’s support for the Chinese government’s use of their technology for surveillance and control of its population. Also unmentioned is avoidance of most American taxes through legal loopholes while calling for increasing taxes on the middle class who don’t have enough cash to hire tax avoidance specialists or willing legislators. Why are we not surprised?
The film is funny at times. A few of the gags are very funny, and the kids all seem to learn great life lessons. By the end of the summer, all of them have really grown. And the film is basically amusing in an “I’ve seen this before” kind of way. This is a movie you can wait to see when it comes out on DVD.