Google goes Hollywood in The Internship, an intermittently amusing but mostly strained feature-length commercial for the technology giant that reteams those Wedding Crashers Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
The stars play laid-off watch salesmen who shoot the moon by applying for an internship at Google, despite their total lack of knowledge about computer technology. Naturally, Google accepts the pair, charitably overlooking that these fools qualify as college students only by a hasty enrollment in the online University of Phoenix.
In a Silicon Valley summer camp-cum-reality show, teams of students compete to be the one selected for Google employment. "Sometimes the long shots pay off the biggest," Vaughn's Billy McMahon insists. An archetypal Vaughn motormouth who uses pushy charm as salesmanship, Billy annoys and then ingratiates himself with a team of stereotypes. Beside his more responsible partner Nick Campbell (Wilson) and Google team leader Lyle (Josh Brener) are three twenty-one-year-old nerds each defined by a single trait: glued-to-his-four-inch-screen Stuart (Dylan O'Brien); never-been-kissed Neha (Tiya Sircar); and cowed momma's boy Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael).
All of them need to learn to live a little, knowledge Billy has in spades. While Billy contributes his people skills to team-building what rival intern Graham (Max Minghella) calls "a confederacy of outcasts," Nick teaches essentially the same lesson to beautiful thirty-year-old Google employee Dana (Rose Byrne), convincing the careerist that what she really needs in her life is a date, preferably with him.
Vaughn gets story and co-screenwriting credit (with Jared Stern), though helming duties go to play-it-safe director Shawn Levy (Date Night). Although Vaughn's riffing skills remain in fine form, as do Wilson's, the story makes every obvious and conventional choice. The script also happily tells flagrant lies about how technological idiots could thrive in such a competition by learning computer programming in less than a month, or cramming enough study about Gmail in one night to effectively man a helpline the next day.
The production spent five days shooting at Google's Mountain View, California campus but mostly shot on replica sets erected at the Georgia Institute of Technology. It's an effective simulacrum, and so, in a way, is the movie, which pushes a feel-good, root-for-the-underdog vibe so sunny one might almost forget that 95% of the young interns, who fear uncertain futures, will be shown the door.
Despite this shadow of hard truth, the reassuring message of The Internship is that unemployed fortysomethings shouldn't lose hope: they have plenty to offer, and can teach the kids a thing or two. But in a moment that's at once absurd and a little off-putting (in a movie with Asian diversity but not a single black speaking role), Nick quits one passing job while quoting Langston Hughes: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?...Or does it explode?" Well, let's just say there's nothing explosive about this clichéd corporate comedy.