Review: The Internship

dvd the internshipThe 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.

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Review: After Earth

bluray after earthAfter Earth is a Will Smith and Son project directed by M. Night Shyamalan.  Smith is credited for the story and the M. Night Screenplay was co-written by video game and Book of Eli writer Gary Whitta.  The movie would work much better as a game actually, as the set-ups and stages lend themselves to more potential action a player can create then what actually occurs on screen.  The resulting movie seems like a bad adaptation of a game that never even actually existed.

The look of this futuristic sci-fi tale is not bad.  The fanciful architecture of the canyon dwellings notwithstanding, the more practical materials and designs present styles and textures that befit a proper narrative.  Beyond that, there is less to enjoy or respect.  The narrative is slow and empty.  Will Smith’s story had great potential, as I said it would probably be a really fun video game and it could have been a thrilling movie.  The story of a father and son crash landing on a hostile planet, both of their fates resting on the son’s ability to cross the alien terrain and retrieve a beacon from a lost portion of the ship, is very enticing.  But it misses the mark with lackluster performances and noncommittal challenges for the hero on his quest.

Without properly fleshing out the skeleton of a story, yet presenting it as an exceedingly long feature, it unravels slowly and becomes tedious in no time.  Conflicts arise predictably and are quickly delt with, abandoning the promise of thrill or adventure. The strained relationship between the characters never gets pushed to the point of real drama so the turning point comes suddenly and subsides leaving all the scenes around it wanting for more of anything relatable, threatening, endearing, or otherwise.

Without the spark of passion or inspiration from the actors or director, it is like watching grown men anguish over completing a child’s connect-the-dots puzzle.  The choices decided on in the process, such as miraculous occurances that save the hero in times of despair, are questionable, but really don’t matter, because the movie is a bore, regardless of how, or why.

I’m a big fan of Unbreakable and I have been a supporter of M. Night up until The Last Airbender.  I even liked The Lady in the Water.  I felt that movie delivered exactly what it promised.  I never expected him to make another The Sixth Sense and have enjoyed the bulk of his work.  I was hoping this movie would serve as a sort of comeback or show somehow that he had once again found his way.  But the movie is a disappointment that casts doubt in even my mind as to whether, or not Shyamalan can ever again deliver a substantial movie.

Blu-ray Review: The Rescuers and the Rescuers Down Under

Buy The Rescuers: 35th Anniversary Edition double feature Blu-ray/DVD combo

The Rescuers Down Under has the distinguished honor of being the first ever sequel from Walt Disney Animation Studios and it even had a much deserved theatrical release.   It also had the difficult task of following the smash hit The Little Mermaid which marked an amazing come back for the studio.  Mice in animation have always been popular but The Rescuers is a uniquely Disney franchise filled with adventure and fun characters.  From a bayou diamond hunt against Madame Medusa to tracking a poacher in Australia, The Rescue Aid Society sends their best mice, Bernard and Bianca to save children in peril and meet lots of fun and interesting characters on the way.  From the inventive and classic artistry of The Rescuers to the Stunning layouts and CGI enhancements of The Rescuers Down Under, the two films boast the state of the art technology and top-notch storytelling that Disney has always been known for.

Featuring the voice talents of Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, the stories follow two brave mice dedicated to helping children in need– one, a young orphan named Penny abducted by a wicked pawn shop owner in search of a diamond, the other an animal rescuer named Cody,  kidnapped by a poacher who is hunting an extremely rare golden eagle–  The two award-winning films are packaged together as one of Disney’s recent release of Blu-ray double features and include a True Life Adventure titled “Water Birds”, a sing-along video of the Oscar nominated song “Someone’s Waiting For You”, and the classic cartoon “Three Blind Mouseketeers”, plus a great behind the scenes look at the animation of The Rescuers Down Under.

Review: Journey 2 The Mysterious Island

As a fan of all genres that provide high quality entertainment and good writing, I am not the least bit twitchy about renting (or even going to see) a family film if I think it will deliver.  Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is definitely one of those films.  As a sequel it transcends the original with great humor that any kid at heart can enjoy.  It’s a simple story about fatherhood, family bonds, and appreciating those you can rely on to be in your corner.

Far from the typical storyline about oblivious parents who don’t understand their out of control kid, Journey 2 offers a refreshingly interested and helpful stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson).  Despite being pretty much the perfect parent, Sean (Josh Hutcherson) and his grandfather (Michael Caine) refuse to accept him at first.  Dwayne Johnson is always awesome and he brings everything to the table for Journey 2.  Despite Johnson’s mass and proven comedic skills, the bulk of the comedy comes from other father in the film (Luis Guzman), the pilot who agrees to fly Hank and Sean to the island.  His silly shenanigans are a delight and make this just a good fun movie to enjoy if you want some really light entertainment.

The film is never bogged down or overburdened with a message.  The message is clear, but it’s packaged cleverly within the unfolding drama and never becomes preachy as these films often can be.  The special effects were good enough, but not prize-winning.  All in all, it was a well-balanced family adventure that is definitely worth watching with or without kids, if you are in the right mood. A