‘The Internship’ is good-humored if not hilarious

By Gary Clift

I don’t know if one would want to call Shawn Levy “the genius behind the ‘Night at the Museum’ movies,” but he did direct the first two and is apparently going to do the third.

His current release, though, is another Owen Wilson vehicle, this one co-starring Vince Vaughn, who also generated the story. The movie is called “The Internship.”

It is pretty much the movie one would expect from the pair famous for “The Wedding Crashers.” In fact, it may be a little better, a little more fully-developed than one would have expected. Some time and money have been spent making “The Internship” into a hit comedy.

Not that it is all that funny. It is good humored, surely. But except for “diversity” being cited as a reason for the Google Internet search company to accept the applications of a couple of middle-aged salesmen for internships, I can’t think of a really funny joke in the film.

This internship business is the premise. It proves to be a better than average germ for a big screen film. After all, aren’t techno nerds the apparent successors to former rap stars as the quick-fix movie-star celebrities of the half-decade? Recall the ratings success of the TV show “Big Bang Theory.”

So where are techno nerds apparently triumphant? In silicon valley. Have the film star some guys representing all of those of us caught on-stage during a set-change and the screenplay must have pretty much written itself.

Out of work because no one is buying the wrist watches they used to offer, Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) take internships at Google, hoping to catch on there permanently. Despite their lack of technical knowledge, they help their twenty-two year-old team leader Lyle (Josh Brener) and their three outcast colleagues to compete in a points race through five or six “challenges”—write the most popular new “app” (we used to call those “programs,” I think); sell the most advertising to area businesses; work an hour on the help line; and so on.

A couple of the challenges remind us of how unattractive the imagined world of the techno nerd is. The teams play a version of Harry Potter’s “Quidditch” as one of the challenges. But there are no flying brooms, and the Golden Snitch (it makes me cringe to have to write some of this terminology) is actually a man in a costume. So the game is like water polo except on a field, and the Snitch business makes all the other scoring superfluous. But there, I am told, actually humans in adult bodies who pretend to play competitive matches of this game.

Along the way Lyle finds love, the home-schooled kid quits punishing himself (by pulling out eyebrow hairs), and then Nick gets a date with a senior staff member (played by Rose Byrne), though we learned early on that Google employees are not allowed to date each other. Riddle me that, Batman.

We also learn that employees and supervisors can’t celebrate together (though Billy and Nick take Lyle to a strip club). And the leader of the internship program is a rules-minding literalist. The big fun of working for the company seems to be that there’s free food in the convenience store and a volleyball pit. Whoopie. Techno nerds rule.

In fact, even in entertainments glorifying them, techno nerds come off as dull, prissy, and broadly incompetent. “The Internship” is all right because it is about characters from this imaginary category who learn from their unemployed salesmen uncles that real life can be sort of fun.

Which prompts the question: What are we doing sitting in movie theaters, anyway? Shouldn’t we be out jeering at a Quidditch game?

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