MRR Review: "The Internship"

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Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star as two old-school salesmen who haven’t kept up with the digital age. When they discover that technology has made their jobs obsolete, they attempt to re-make themselves by interning at a major tech company. Directed by Shawn Levy and based on a screenplay written by Vaughn, who also produces. John Goodman, Rose Byrne, Dylan O'Brien, Max Minghella & Jessica Szohr also star.
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MRR Review: "The Internship"

-- Rating: PG 13 (sexuality, some crude humor, partying, and language)
Length: 119 minutes
Release Date: June 7, 2013
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Genre: Comedy

"The Social Network," the 2010 film based on the early years of Facebook, offered a not always flattering view of the company and primary founder Mark Zuckerberg. The director's attempt to tell a story was never overshadowed or weighed down by Facebook's huge real-life presence. The film certainly didn't sugarcoat the company's controversial origins. "The Internship," on the other hand, might as well be a two-hour commercial for Internet juggernaut Google.

The film's lead actors are Owen Wilson ("The Big Year" and "Midnight in Paris") and Vince Vaughn ("The Dilemma" and "The Break-Up"), who co-starred in the 2005 hit "Wedding Crasher." The pair plays Nick and Billy, two middle-aged watch salesmen who lose their jobs and improbably enough, considering their lack of tech experience, join Google's ranks.

The movie begins with their boss, played by John Goodman, explaining that watches, even high-end timepieces such as the ones they sell, are no longer needed now that most people rely on their smartphones to check the time, along with practically everything else. Left to flounder in a job market that's largely passed them by, Nick and Billy take jobs selling mattresses for Nick's sister's boyfriend, played by Will Ferrell, before they decide to apply for internships with Google in hopes of landing permanent jobs with the company.

Nick and Billy enroll in an online university to qualify as students, audition for a Google search committee, and eventually head for Google's headquarters in the Silicon Valley. There, the duo is blown away by the campus, with its employee cafeteria offering free food and beverages, driverless cars, and a beach volleyball court.

Soon after their arrival, Nick and Billy win over many of the younger tech-savvy Google employees who find the pair's life experience and outlook appealing. Nick even finds a romantic interest in the Google employee character played by Rose Byrne, who's able-for once-to speak using her native Australian accent.

The true comedy occurs when Nick and Billy, of Generation X, go head-to-head with younger Generation Y competitors for coveted, limited slots on Google's permanent payroll. Picture team-building exercises and plenty of references to sex and alcohol as Wilson and Vaughn perform the type of jive talk many viewers will recognize from "The Wedding Crashers."

However, the script, which was co-written by Vaughn and Jared Stern, is generally lacking in imagination along with distinct characterizations, while overflowing with Google propaganda. When the lead characters initially arrive on the Google campus, Nick says, "Imagine the greatest amusement park you've ever been to as a kid. Now imagine nothing like it and a million times better. That's where we are."

At another point in the film, a Google employee extols the virtues of the company, contending it's making the world a better place. Of course, not everyone is a fan of Google, with critics contending the company violates individual privacy rights, ignores copyrights, and acts as a monopoly where internet search engines are concerned. That doesn't bother Vaughn, who recently said, "This is not a documentary on Google where you come in and say, 'This is exactly the way things are done there.'"

Those who've seen the film might not be surprised to learn Google's marketing department consulted with the film's producers throughout the making of the movie. Google marketing employees crafted the film's end-credits sequence in which a barrage of Google products appears. However, Levy notes that the company didn't have control over the script.

Director Shawn Levy, whose most successful recent film was "Date Night," starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, has said he wouldn't have made the film had Google not participated, preferring to work with an existing company rather than a fictional version.

The script isn't all about Google. There are plenty of 1980s pop culture references, including many pointed at "Flashdance." Thankfully, Wilson and Vaughn are amusing in their ability to riff with each other. In fact, it was their on-screen chemistry, so evident in "The Wedding Crashers," that spurred Vaughn to team with Jared to write "The Internship" in the first place. In some ways, that chemistry is the new film's saving grace.

However, while the 2005 film was an honest, funny film showcasing the comedic pairing of two actors in their prime, "The Internship" is one long series of product placement opportunities. At two hours long, "The Internship" might be a bit too much for those hoping for a simple comedy.

Rating: 3 out of 5