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Film review: ‘The Internship’ a Two-Hour Google Ad with Few Laughs

The Internship 3Product placements have been part of moviemaking since the silent era. But in the digital-age buddy flick The Internship a tie-in becomes a tie-down as Google becomes so much more than part of the scenery.

Yes, Vince Vaughn (who had the idea for this story and co-wrote the script with Jared Stern) and Owen Wilson are together again, but the comedy gold they mined in 2005’s Wedding Crashers has largely turned to dross. And while the search engine giant is beloved by many (not everyone of course) the film is such a gooey love song to Google even the most forgiving (or corporate-friendly) among us should have trouble digesting it.

The Internship 7Here’s the fishes-out-of-water setup: Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) are old-school salesmen whose livelihoods are rendered obsolete by the digital age (I share your pain, guys).  Their smooth presentational skills (which provide some of the film’s funniest moments as the duo struggle with modern communications in the children’s section of a public library) get them into the highly competitive Google internship program, though.

The freshly-minted Nooglers (that’s Google-speak for “interns”) may be newbies to this land of algorithms, but you just know the bites they take out of life will be more important than the bytes they know nothing about. And yes, there’s potential romance in the form of executive Dana (Rose Byrne) and a full-of-himself villain named Graham (Max Minghella) so the stale buddy movie staples are also present.

The Internship 6Even Will Ferrell in an uncredited role he was likely born to play – a sleazy mattress salesman – fails to ignite the comedy flame Vaughn, Stern, director Shawn Levy and their colleagues must have figured it would spark. That’s not to say Ferrell or anyone else in the picture gives a bad performance; it’s just that the storyline is as worn out as the Flashdance references Billy makes to his young colleagues.

The movie is certainly a sunny and upbeat feature; it’s not cynical, which is probably one of the reasons Google was so happy to cooperate with the filmmakers on this obvious valentine to their company. But even as a summertime formulaic popcorn flick The Internship fails to provide enough laughs to forgive the pervasive promotion of (to quote the fawning press notes for this release) “a place where dreams become reality.”

The Internship 1The Internship (www.theinternshipmovie.com) opens nationally in wide release today (June 7). For locations and show times in the Nashville area check the websites of Regal Cinemas (www.regmovies.com), Carmike Cinemas (www.carmike.com) and Malco Theatres (www.malco.com). Rated PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language, 119 min. Directed by Shawn Levy; written by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern, based on a story by Mr. Vaughn. Starring Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella, Aasif Mandvi, Josh Brener, Dylan O’Brien, Will Ferrell, Tobit Raphael , Tiya Sircar and Jessica Szohr.

 

*Photos by Phil Bray courtesy 20th Century Fox.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for ArtNowNashville.com from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org).