Perhaps the most interesting thing about ‘The Internship’ is comparing it to the 2005 film ‘The Wedding Crashers’. For a variety of reasons – the film’s central concept created interest, the appeal Vaughan & Wilson had developed in a series of well-liked comedies in the preceding few years, Vaughan & Wilson considered the ‘it’ guys at the time in terms of mainstream movie appeal – when released ‘The Wedding Crashers’ was a monster commercial success (and got a generally favourable commercial response).
And yet I when I saw ‘The Wedding Crashers’ last year I found it generally underwhelming – OK and fitifully funny for the most down but let down by a dire ending. Take away of all the hype and positivity on its release, I think ‘The Wedding Crashers’ will largely fade and won’t be remembered as a high-class comedy.
Which brings us to ‘The Internship’, which in the leadup to its release seemed to have the opposite buzz to The Wedding Crashers. This was understandable to a point as Vaughan especially has starred in a lot of clunkers since 2005, both stars have coasted somewhat on their well-known personas and this was perceived as a lazy attempt to reclaim their TWC glory days. Also, virtually every review I’ve seen has referenced negatively to how the film (set largely at the headquarters of Internet giant Google) is a shameless two-hour plug for Google. As a result, it’s not a surprise the film significantly underperformed when it opened in America.
Despite the negativity surrounding it, I liked the trailer for ‘The Internship’ and, notwithstanding their weaknesses, thought Vaughan and Wilson talented enough to consider this worth seeing for myself.
The film centres on Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughan) and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson), two skilled salesmen who found themselves without a job when the company they work for closes down. With limited options, they decide to try a career change by applying to work for software company Google, highly regarded for its success and work conditions. But getting there will mean getting past dozens of other younger, vastly more qualified candidates in a challenging contest.
I didn’t have particularly high hopes for ‘The Internship’ but the film turns out to be a pleasant surprise. Whatever their flaws, Wilson and Vaughan have great chemistry together and their opening scene when they’re despairingly trying to sell watches is funny and entertaining enough to set the film off on the right foot. They’re consistently entertaining to follow as a combo and help keep the film’s energy up when it threatens to flag.
One surprising thing about ‘The Internship’ how genial it is, especially compared with the often raunchy TWC. Notwithstanding some overweight jokes, the entire film is surprisingly good-natured and likable which makes it a refreshing change from many modern comedies which are defined by cynicism and nastiness.
Besides the appeal of the Vaughan/Wilson combo, there are other pleasures as well. Aasif Mandvi is very amusing in his role as the harsh overseer of the job contest, especially in a scene where he battles with Billy over what food they’re allowed to take home from the workplace.
As a Google administrator named Dana, Rose Byrne (using her natural Australian accent for once) stars as Nick’s love interest. While the romantic subplot is fairly standard, there’s a nice dinner scene which flips the cliché by having Nick demonstrating deliberately obnoxious behaviour (which Dana is aware of) after Dana admits to being taken aback by how nice he is.
And what of the enormous presence of Google everywhere within the film? People have been complaining how it’s so overtly and openly connected with the Google brand but ironically enough that’s the reason I wasn’t particularly bothered by it. It’s not as if its deftly inserted pro-Google messages into the film without people knowing about it. It’s so open about it that you can either take it or leave it.
One thing that really helped my enjoyment of ‘The Internship’ is that I saw it at a cinema screening that was almost full. A comedy benefits more than any other type of film from a large audience if it’s working to any level and this occurred in the screening I was at. Crucially it got laughs in the opening few scenes of the film and the atmosphere in the cinema was set, with plenty of audience-wide laughs occurring throughout the film.
The film is far from perfect. An ongoing plotline that Billy and Nick give ‘life lessons’ to their young colleagues is well-meaning but fairly obvious and heavy-handed. A party scene at a nightclub/burlesque bar goes on too long. A young opponent of Nick & Billy who becomes their enemy (played by Max Minghella) is arbitrarily set up. The film’s ethos of self-belief and going for your dreams is simplistic.
There are plenty of other flaws in ‘The Internship’ and by no stretch is it a great film. But it is an enjoyable one with plenty of funny moments and I had a good time with it. While it’s timing of release and other factors will see it’s far less successful financially than TWC, in terms of quality it’s a superior film.