Expecting lightning to strike the same spot twice is foolish. Part of me believes Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson understand this, which explains why they waited nearly a decade to follow up the white-hot success of their last collaboration, Wedding Crashers. Don’t get the band back together until you’ve found the right tune to sing, right?
Except time has passed, and the entertainers – while still in harmony – have grown older, slightly melancholic, and more nervous about their faltering status in a rapidly changing world. The Internship shouldn’t be viewed as The Wedding Crashers 2, as that will only raise expectations and create disappointment. But it works as a different, mainstream comedy, one that speculates where Vaughn and Wilson’s self-centered party animals might be lingering now that the days of garters and bouquets have faded away.
Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) are the best watch salesmen in the business. Too bad for them, their business is obsolete. Reminded by their boss (John Goodman) that everyone uses cell phones to tell time, the power duo is shown the door. They aren’t on the unemployment line for long. Billy, in a fit of inspiration -- and corporate partner synergy -- signs the pair up for a competitive internship program at Google. Now all they have to do is prove their worth amongst an army of tech-savvy college wizards all competing for a small cache of valuable full-time jobs.
The Internship is Vaughn’s baby, blessing him with a “Story By,” co-screenwriting and producer’s credit. The comedian’s involvement no doubt helped convince Google to lend their name and likeness to the project, without which the comedy would be even more generic. And Vaughn should be commended for cooking up a worthy reason for a Wilson reunion. The idea of these rebellious underperformers sticking it to the eggheads at Google brims with potential.
Except the creative partners Vaughn chose for The Internship should prepare you for – and possibly warn you against – the style of comedy you are going to get. This isn’t Old School on the Google campus, and Vaughn and Wilson aren’t applying the arrogant Dodgeball edge to a makeshift buddy comedy. Vaughn’s co-writer, Jared Stern, helped pen Mr. Popper’s Penguins as well as The Watch. And Shawn Levy – director of The Pink Panther, Real Steel and the Night at the Museum movies -- is at the helm of the film. If anything, this comedy comes across as a natural extension of Levy’s own Date Night than it ever does Wedding Crashers: Two gifted comedians with opposing styles are handed a winning concept but little material and asked to stretch the humor thin for feature-length consumption.
Vaughn and Wilson’s chemistry, alone, carries Internship over the bland spots – of which, there are a few. I found it brave of these two actors to embrace a storyline that has the two actors admitting that their most productive years might be behind them. The Internship is at its most relatable in its opening act, when the confident salesmen are dealt a curveball and must scramble to land on their feet in a wildly unfamiliar situation. How many people in today’s unpredictable economy have endured a similar rug pull?
“It’s scary because it’s new,” Vaughn tells Wilson of their career switch. Yet The Internship is safe because, despite the cutting-edge potential of the Google setting, the majority of the film follows the familiar, old stylings of an underdog mentorship story. Wilson finds a love interest in a beautiful workaholic (Rose Byrne). Vaughn butts heads with a cocky, overprivileged Ivy League graduate (Max Minghella). The duo lead a team of social misfits through a series of intellectual internship challenges, though the ultimate outcome’s never in doubt.
At one point, Vaughn and Wilson’s Google team – a melting pot of modern nerd clichés – is told they are “just weird enough to make them interesting.” I can almost say the same thing about Levy’s movie. Every time it wants to settle into a lull, we’re introduced to an overstressed Asian student who pulls out his eyebrow hairs one at a time, a wheelchair salesman (Rob Riggle) who’s sexually attracted to his retirement-home patrons, and a tattooed mattress salesman whose identity I’d prefer to keep secret. A few more of those bizarre touches might have pulled The Internship to another level. As it stands, it’s passable summer entertainment that leaves us wondering what might have been.