By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood June 2, 2013 at 4:43PM
Isn’t it just so ironically hilarious that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson come off as such unwanted guests in “The Internship,” Shawn Levy’s divided-generations and generation-dividing comedy? Not really. In the film, which for some reason co-stars Rose Byrne, the “Wedding Crashers” duo play unemployed, overage cadets aboard the Google mothership, trying to get jobs at America’s No. 1 place to work (according to Fortune magazine). As any proctology patient will attest, even the most unfunny experience has something to teach us. In the case of “The Internship” it’s how truly polarized the generations seem to be.
This is not an issue, as the movie would pretend, that is simply about technology. It’s true that Vaughn and Wilson, as recently dismissed purveyors of high-end wrist watches (granted, a clever touch), are comically clueless about most everyday appliances as they immerse themselves in Google culture and run up against people half their age with twice their wits. This places them, among their fellow “Nooglers” (“new Googlers,” in Google parlance, most of which possesses a high degree of Googly-ness) beneath contempt, which is the place where Vaughn and Wilson, as comics, prefer to function.
The alliance they form with several other less-than-likely candidates (played by, among others, newcomers Tiya Sircar, Josh Brener and Tobit Raphael) is supposed to be about the wisdom of age meeting the raw talent of youth, to their mutual benefit. In fact, the premise of the movie is about the young and the old all vying for a limited number of jobs, which is one of the things that makes the whole movie an allegory for the current state of the U.S. economy. And profoundly unfunny.
Levy doesn’t seem to get it. Neither do his two stars (Vaughn co-wrote the screenplay). The conflicts in the film – in which teams of computer-coding geniuses are pitted against each other, in a microcosm of a “Hunger Games”-meets-Paul Ryan version of America – are pretty upscale problems: The Google wannabes are all candidate with 140-plus IQs and advanced degrees from MIT; they’re going to succeed, it might just not be at Google. The implication that they represent their generation at large is specious and might just tick off more discerning members of the audience.
It will certainly tick off anyone who reads the news, or has a memory about movies. The portrayal of real-life corporations on the big screen has traditionally been rare, and certainly not intended to assuage the stockholder. “The Social Network” was no bouquet of roses to Facebook. Back in 1961, the old Billy Wilder/James Cagney comedy “One, Two, Three” was, in part, about the Coca-Colonization of the Third World. (Not entirely successful: In 1980’s “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” an errant Coke bottle creates tribal unrest/existential discord, partly because corporate branding hasn’t yet reached the Bushmen of the Kalahari). Alex Gibney’s “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” was a virtual indictment of corporations and capitalism, per se.
“The Internship,” on the other hand, is a big wet kiss to Google — the multi-billion-dollar U.S. tech company that pays a 2.4 percent tax rate. That it has been, for four years running, the best place in America to work (according to the annual Fortune survey) adds insult to injury. Of course they can afford all the amenities. They don’t pay taxes. In its privileged, entitled cluelessness, “The Internship” is like a ride in Mitt Romney’s station wagon, without the laughs.