Film Review: The Internship

Clichéd comedy reuniting Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson is primarily a fawning tribute to Google.

Cinematic advertising in its most base and brazen form, The Internship proves that Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson and director Shawn Levy have no qualms about discarding artistic integrity for corporate shilling. Co-written by Vaughn, it's a laughably formulaic fiasco that uses the templates of Back to School, Old School and Wedding Crashers for what amounts to a feature-length commercial for Google—a company that, given its online ubiquity, certainly needs no such Hollywood help getting its name out to the public.

Levy's comedy is all celebratory crane shots of Google's Mountain View, California campus and conversational scenes in which people discuss the virtues of "Googliness" and the ways in which the search engine-cum-Internet-giant helps change individuals and, by extension, the world. Such publicity is fundamental to the proceedings at hand, given that the story is itself solely a vehicle for peddling Google, following down-and-out watch salesmen Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) as they attempt—after their former old-school company closes up shop, and their boss (John Goodman) dubs them "dinosaurs"—to reinvent themselves by nabbing a summer internship at Google, whose HQ is depicted as a techno-fantasia of lobby slides, sleeping pods and funny vehicles populated by computer-crazy whiz kids.

Rarely does a moment go by in The Internship when someone isn't proclaiming the greatness of Google, which Billy and Nick immediately agree holds the potential for transforming their flagging fortunes. Alas, while the wisecracking heroes seek to renovate their careers, Levy's film is determined to hew to convention at every turn, even when—as is so often the case—that leads to abject nonsense.

After a web-cam application interview during which Vaughn and Wilson, in a vain attempt to generate some of their rat-a-tat-tat Wedding Crashers hilarity, ad-lib a bunch of gibberish, the two head to Google, where they're immediately viewed by their twenty-something prodigy peers, and especially stock villain Graham (Max Minghella), as old fogeys out of place and unlikely to nab the coveted internship that they and hundreds of others are competing for via a series of group-based competitions. Stuck with three other misfits plus a weirdo team manager, Lyle (Josh Brener), Billy and Nick stumble and bumble about, trying to smooth-talk their way through challenges that are either far too tech-based for their analog minds to grasp, or random contests—like a game of Harry Potter-inspired Quidditch—that allow the stars to flail about like goofy man-children.

Clichés abound, with Billy and Nick teaching their young teammates to escape their digital-interface existences and enjoy real life—a process that involves strip-club revelry during which one nerd repeatedly loses lap-dance self-control, Lyle improbably woos an out-of-his-league sexy dancer (Jessica Szohr), and everyone gets in a raucous brawl—while they themselves learn to grow up. Nick finds love with a stuffy Google exec (Rose Byrne) after preposterously teaching himself computer code, and Vaughn makes a man of himself by buckling down and working hard, all as they deliver one-liners as lame as their homilies are squishy.

Aside from an early Will Ferrell cameo that exudes legitimate wacko absurdity, there's no creative spark to The Internship, just the depressing employment of a stale narrative structure and gags to promote an online behemoth whose name is either plastered on or uttered during nearly every frame of this dismal dud. Devoid of laughs but rife with brand marketing, its ironic legacy seems preordained: to be the number-one Google search result for "Shameless Movie Product Placement."