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THE INTERNSHIP , USA , 2013 , MPAA Rating : PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language

Google is a company for which innovation and original thinking are integral. THE INTERNSHIP, set at Google, is the exact opposite. A good-natured enough flick, it is, nonetheless, obvious, predictable, and painfully low on actual laughs. That last wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t putatively a comedy. It gets worse. Starring and co-written by Vince Vaughn, it co-stars his WEDDING CRASHERS sidekick Owen Wilson. There is something interesting about how they were so very funny in that film, and so very not funny in this one. Not entertaining, mind you, but interesting, as they attempt to recreate the rhythms and riffing but without the content to make it work. The worst part is that they are trying so hard. They do have an innate and goofy sort of charm, but it does nothing to lighten up this cornball of a flick.

They are Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson), 40-something, out-of-work salesman who have hit bottom. Billy by losing his girlfriend when his house goes into foreclosure, and Nick when he’s forced to take a job at his brother-in-law’s mattress emporium. The brother-in-law is played by Will Ferrell with a bizarre neck tattoo, but don’t get your hopes up. He doesn’t help either. Alone in his soon to be foreclosed upon basement, Billy  uses Google to look for a new job, and when he can’t find anything promising, decides that perhaps he should be looking at Google as a possible employer. What he ends up with is a summer internship for him and Nick, and the two, against all odds, and the better instincts of almost everyone with whom they come into contact, refuse to let reality get in the way of their dream.

The film plays on several chestnuts. Billy and Nick have no clue about the internet, though they used it for their online interview and Billy for his initial search. Billy and Nick have no clue about the nerd culture in which they suddenly find themselves. Billy and Nick eventually give their ragtag team of 21-year-old misfits (phone addict, eyebrow puller, manga devotee), and their team leader, who by the looks of him hasn’t quite come to terms with puberty (adorable Josh Brenner), real team spirit in the competition to see who gets a real job at the end of the summer. Billy and Nick learn about the Google culture. The young people learn to benefit from Billy and Nick’s wisdom after spending a wild night on the town. Nick, in a solo move, gets behind the frosty exterior of the winsome Google-ite (Rose Byrne), who, of course, spills her overwhelming regrets about her biological clock to Nick after a few meaningless and faintly irritating encounters. It’s as though someone were ticking off the required plot points gleaned from a sub-standard textbook on screenwriting.

The only thing that the film gets right is in showing why Google is a nifty place to work, what with the giant slide in the lobby, the free food, and the nap pods that employees are encouraged to use during the day. If Vaughn and co-writer/director Jaren Stern were making a recruitment video for Google, they succeeded. Who wouldn’t want all the pudding one could eat, cool hats with propellers on them, and the promise that good will be rewarded and evil punished? The other success is Josh Gad as the uber-nerd of the type that inhabits all such hi-tech concerns. Hiding in plain sight bending over a laptop while wearing noise-blocking earphones to keep the world at bay and avoid demonstrating his non-existent social skills, he has the awkwardness that transcends mere shyness. He is the denizen of another reality only tangentially related to this one. I worked in Silicon Valley a lifetime ago. I know these guys. Gad nailed it.

If, on the other hand, they were trying to make a fun comedy, they failed miserably.  So much for unlimited pudding.




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