The Internship is a smart collaboration between Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps and Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Productions. It’s intelligently crafted, to the minutest detail, making it yet another pleasurable viewing experience from the director of Date Night and Real Steel. Worthy of ownership, it was perhaps an easily overlooked movie that might be disregarded as more of the same in a sea of mundane comedies. With the familiar faces of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn headlining the film you may feel as though you’d seen it before and at the very least, the word fresh is not one that would creep into your preconceptions.
But Levy does with the natural talents of Wilson and Vaughn, what he did for Tina Fey and Steve Carell, and the collaboration turns out wonderfully shaped performances. The finished product is a perfectly paced, lean comedy that takes advantage of each moment to generate and reinforce positive interest in the story. The result for the viewer is an engaging experience with plenty of laughs and quotable dialogue that is very re-watchable. The strength of the story is almost like that of a Pixar movie. It’s not likely to bring a tear to anyone’s eye by any stretch of the imagination, but it is carefully plotted and the comedy is driven just as much by the ensemble of lovable misfits as it is by the circumstances.
We open up with Billy and Nick, a couple of great salesman getting psyched on the way to a crucial meeting with a client. They are a confident team who know what they are doing, but the company is in trouble, so the pressure is on. No time is wasted introducing these guys and getting the audience to empathize, Within minutes they learn that the company is over and that they are out of jobs. Rather than take another sales job that will allow them to continue to scrape by, the two decide to jump headlong into a new field created by the technology that rendered their skills obsolete. They take an internship at Google, where a series of challenges are laid before a variety of teams in a winner takes all race for employment. Since everyone is much younger and more educated, they avoid Billy and Nick like the plague leaving them to be scooped up with the rest of the losers after all the teams are chosen. The hostile group of hopeless loners must act like a team in order to survive and find friendship along the way. It’s not original. It sounds a lot like Dodgeball if you think about it– or the more recent Monsters University– But the genius of it is not in the originality of the plot. All throughout it are elements of many classic comedies, and yet it stands alone as unique, because of what transpires between the bullet points. It’s funny, it’s familiar, but it’s also new and has a strong identity of its own. A couple of the best examples is the two or three key stages in the middle act that reveal a lot about the characters and energize the plot; and the sweet, underplayed subplots for Nick and Billy.
I think, what makes the movie work most is that it has heart under the surface, but the focus is always comedy. There is a kind of slight of hand at play, that I think is mostly due to Levy’s role as director, but also the finely honed sense of comedy Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have their own reputations for. It goes beyond the clash between cynicism and idealism in the fight for the American dream. The Internship is sharply focused and deeply felt so that the plot becomes an exercise in fun and frivolity, with a firm spine to carry it through.