Film and TV

The Internship is worse than fetching coffee

Eager young people can't find jobs; qualified older people can't find jobs. There's nothing funny about that, which is exactly why someone ought to be making comedies about it. The Internship, in which downtrodden old-school salespeople Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson enter the 21st century and land internships at Google, might have been just the palliative for this sad state of affairs. But when you need cheering up about your inability to pay the rent or your lack of health insurance, do you really want to drop 10 precious shekels (or more) on a movie so desperately unfunny it makes you want to slit your wrists?

I laughed exactly once during The Internship, at a moment when Vaughn's character performs a Google search using the words "jobs for people with few skills." If you've been there yourself, you'll probably find this funny, too. But mostly, it's depressing to watch two reasonably gifted comic actors play clueless oldies who just can't get the hang of this brand-new Internet thing.

As the movie opens, longtime pals and business partners Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) meet with a loyal customer at a tony restaurant. Their job? Selling wristwatches the old-fashioned way, out of a case with a handle on top. The customer has to break the news to them that the company employing them has gone out of business; they confront their boss, who confirms their worst fears. (He's played by John Goodman, phoning in his patented Foghorn Leghorn imitation.)

Billy, the more enterprising of these two Luddite numbnuts, decides the path to riches lies in the World Wide Web, and he somehow lands an online interview with the Google people. The internship committee takes pity, and before long, Billy and Nick land at the company's ultra-slick, aggressively fun San Francisco headquarters, where they're forced to attend corporate brainwashing sessions while wearing stupid propeller beanies, all in the hopes of landing a job.

They're also, of course, lumped in with a bunch of kids some twenty years their junior. A haughty tech snob (Max Minghella) taunts them cruelly. They fall in with a crew of bright social misfits (played by Dylan O'Brien, Tiya Sinclair, Tobit Raphael and Josh Brener) and teach them life lessons by first taking them out for Chinese food and then to a strip club. In between, Billy and Nick advertise their broad and deep lack of knowledge of HTML and app development -- it's hilarious how much they don't know! To further kick up the laugh meter, Billy stocks up on more than he can actually eat, let alone carry, at the search behemoth's famous free cafeteria.

Rose Byrne swans through the movie as Nick's uptight love interest; Aasif Mandvi plays the ball-breaking intern coordinator. Vaughn and Wilson look out of place and uncomfortable -- they're not just playing two getting-older guys who need to jump-start their careers, they're acting out a personal pantomime of middle-age discomfort that's unpleasant to watch. (Vaughn is partially responsible for this monstrosity of a script, co-written with Jared Stern.) Director Shawn Levy -- the guy behind the Night at the Museum franchise -- doesn't help matters by repeatedly training the camera on the stars' faces to capture them laughing, wincing, looking at first downtrodden and then triumphant. He doesn't seem to trust us to get any of the jokes, or any of the rampant insecurity these characters might be feeling.

And really -- how stupid would we have to be to not get what's going on in The Internship? Worse yet, the damn thing is nearly two hours long. Which means, for those of you on a really tight entertainment budget, you'll be paying at least 8 cents per minute not to laugh. Your money is better spent on beans and rice.

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Stephanie Zacharek was the principal film critic at the Village Voice from 2013 to 2015. She is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and of the National Society of Film Critics. In 2015 Zacharek was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. Her work also appeared in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press, Dallas Observer and OC Weekly.