If you think The Internship might be a PG-13 version of Wedding Crashers, you wouldn’t be far off. Fortunately, Wedding Crashers is a very funny movie, while The Internship, though ‘only’ PG-13, pushes that rating to its limit.
The premise is very straight forward: it’s an excuse for Vaughn and Wilson to team up again and try to rekindle their popular shtick. Or, the film is about a team of misfits in a competition to win jobs at Google – a competition for which they seem hopelessly outmatched. The film’s setup is genuinely uncomfortable. Our protagonists have managed to keep their heads above water for most of their careers, but once their company fails, a series of increasingly humiliating experiences (some of which are very funny in their awkwardness) ultimately leave them broken as the film almost crosses the line into ‘too depressingly real to be funny’ territory. With nothing to lose, Vaughn convinces Owen’s character they should apply to be interns at Google and from there our fish out of water comedy takes off.
Vaughn conceived the story, and his particular comedic techniques feature prominently throughout the film: Rapid fire banter, not-so-gently probing people’s worries and inhibitions, and especially, repetition. Telling a joke twice is normally a bad idea, but telling it three times, or more, can somehow become hysterical. Also, a joke might be dropped almost inconsequentially early in the film, only to pay off with a call back or two later on, and even better, a verbal joke might reprise as a physical or visual gag the second time around. Wilson, for his part, spends much of his time as the straight man to Vaughn, and generally being the more likable of the two. However, when Wilson is on screen without Vaughn, a sweeter, more gentle comedy is allowed to breeze across the screen, often masquerading as sage advice or dry observations to whatever absurd circumstance, embarrassing situation, or mayhem is taking place. The film is often a syrupy love letter to Google, but still takes time to poke fun at the absurd counterculture philosophies popular at so many dotcoms today.
The movie’s formula is as old as The Bad News Bears, but underdog movies have an inherent charm. Vaughn, and director Shawn Levy are smart enough to allow the story to follow it’s well worn path without interference. That includes giving copious screen time to all the other actors, and ensuring each character is distinct, clearly contributing to the story, and evolving along with the main characters. Entire scenes pass with Vaughn and Wilson virtually silent as one or more other characters dominate, and shine. The strategy is effective as we care about the team, and cheer at their successes.
Judging by the audience reaction during my viewing, The Internship is a slightly naughty, but breezy and amiable comedy that should enjoy wide appeal. The theater was filled with solid rounds of laughter throughout the film, without any long dull stretches – something hard to achieve in comedies. Teenagers will likely find This Is The End (opening next week and rated “R”) funnier but The Internship should still satisfy, and will be much funnier to an older crowd.