Screen reunions can be tricky things. Vince Vaughn should know. Last year saw the release of The Watch, a film which was, perhaps unfairly, hyped as the second coming of Vaughn’s partnership with Ben Stiller. Unfortunately, the film, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 16% was, to put it mildly, certainly no Dodgeball. Despite this, I held out some hope for The Internship. It sees Vaughn starring alongside the third of that erstwhile trio, Owen Wilson, for the first time since Wedding Crashers.
Unfortunately, The Internship fails to live up to even these low expectations. For starters, it appears to be not so much a film as an extended advert for Google. There are less than ten minutes devoted to introducing the main characters before they are whisked to Google’s San Francisco headquarters, the premise being that Vaughn (Billy McMahon) and Wilson (Nick Campbell), sacked from their jobs as travelling salesmen, are accepted onto the summer internship programme.
Most of the screen time is then aken up by their wide-eyed gazing at the wonders of working for the internet giant (slides! relaxation pods! free bagels!), while the backdrops seem to consist entirely of hotel-standard accommodation, and idyllic, forever-sunny grounds. There is repeated, un-mocking use of the term “Googly-ness” to describe the sought-after attribute of successful candidates, and the tasks the interns perform are the sort of thing that people at summer camps pay good money for. The praise is relentless and the effect is quite bizarre; a bit like watching a version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka has been replaced by Mr Cadbury.
Even judged on its merits, the film is still a disappointment. Over-long, predictable, and low on laughs, it bores and frustrates in equal measure. The plot adheres to a well-worn formula. The interns are put into teams, and compete over a series of tasks with the winning team getting jobs; a premise at once too convenient to be realistic, and too dull to successfully hold interest. Nick and Billy are mocked by the other, vastly younger, candidates, and not without reason; they quickly prove to be almost entirely unfamiliar with computers (a skill which would seem to be the only necessary qualification for pursuing a career at Google).
In a shocking twist, however, they start to show these technologically-competent brats how it’s done, through pure old-fashioned hard work and chutzpah. They even show them a thing or two about partying, because the only thing that’s changed since the 80s is the clothes, daddio. There is, of course, a love story thrown in for good measure, which sees Nick attempting to woo a character so woefully under-developed I had to look up her name (Dana, played by Rose Byrne).
What grates most of all isn’t the fact that the film is so predictable, but that it goes through the motions of the story so lazily. The scenes whip by at a fair rate of knots, with very little energy expended on establishing either character or motive. For example, a section in which Billy drops out, gets another job, is hunted down by Nick and talked round to coming back plays out over less than five minutes of screen time. The film does this constantly, rushing you from one significant moment to the next without bothering to set the scene or provide more than a hint of motivation. The result is a rushed, unengaging end product, and it only adds to the sense that the entire thing is just a vehicle allowing Google to advertise on the silver screen.
This is a great shame in a way, because Wilson and Vaughn clearly have something still to offer as a partnership. Their presence is welcome in every scene, their interplay warm and easy, even producing some moments of surprising emotional import. They can’t, however, triumph over a script which stifles any jokes with its relentless pace, refuses to develop characters beyond a brief introduction, and, unforgivably, shows a quite astonishing deference to Google.
The Internship feels like the result of Sergey Brin threatening to kill Ben Stiller unless someone makes him a 90-minute recruitment video in two weeks. Which would probably make for a far better film; or at least one that didn’t feel quite so much like selling out.
The Internship is showing at Vue Cinema Oxford on 17th July and in Odeon Cinema Oxford until 18th July.