Beneath the giant product placement of The Internship is the reemergence of a schtick that long appeared extinct. Recalling the so-called Frat Pack comedies of the early-to-mid 2000s (e.g. Old School and Anchorman) but dialing back a good deal on the raunchiness, Shawn Levy’s film brings back the collective’s laughs with a lot of help from Google. Harnessing the search engine giant’s appealing products to great success, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson interact with the technology, the modern workplace setting, and a supporting cast of lovable nerds to bring out their finest humor in nearly a decade. Formulaic though it may be, the story (co-written by Vaughn) is enacted so skillfully that its predictability escapes notice, lost in the fun unfolding onscreen.
As Billy and Nick, tag-team watch salesmen whose product has become obsolete due to cell phones, Vaughn and Wilson effortlessly rekindle their Wedding Crashers chemistry. Accepted into Google’s highly competitive college internship program for their diversity (and University of Phoenix credentials), the two descend upon the California headquarters where their rapid-fire banter lands like it did in 2005. Vaughn, whose delivery has felt tired ever since that collaboration, tosses around off-the-cuff zingers and ‘80s references with vintage aplomb, connecting far more than not. Less surprising though still emerging from a bit of a funk himself, Wilson again proves that his aw-shucks charm can carry a film without the help of Wes Anderson or Woody Allen.
Finding their place amidst their shiny new surroundings, Billy and Nick’s fish-out-of-water status puts them at odds with the fellow outcasts in their team, but their extra years of experience likewise help make them unlikely assets. When it comes to the program’s tech challenges, the duo require copious studying to catch up, though in less traditional settings, their knowledge proves invaluable. Never is this more true than during a wonderfully ridiculous Quidditch scene (complete with a human Golden Snitch), in which the non-sporty youth’s Potter-centric knowledge melds with their elder teammates’ athletic abilities. A close second occurs over a memorable night out in San Francisco where the repressed students come into their own, made all the more wonderful by the use of the bay city’s urban beauty.
On its way to an inevitable though no less enjoyable conclusion, the team’s growing camaraderie and amusing side relationships help make The Internship precisely the kind of broad comedy that’s been missing from the year’s slate. Thanks to the time-machine work of its two leads, it’s also one no longer missing from Vaughn and Wilson’s suddenly vibrant mainstream filmographies, an accomplishment as unexpected as it is welcome.
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language.
The Internship is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.