January 23, 2019

POPCORN: ‘The Internship’ A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future



By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


Director Shawn Levy’s “The Internship” is the sort of lighthearted ditty Bing Crosby and Bob Hope might have knocked out if they were making their “road to” movies at the dawn of this millennium. However, since the filmmaker has neither resurrecting powers nor a time machine, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make good substitutes.


The sensibilities of the genre are kept intact. Except that, in this incarnation, the starry-eyed, bantering best buddies find fun, dismay, epiphany and maybe even raison d’etre not in an alluring, foreign locale, but in the exotic mores and folkways of a changing society epitomized at Google. The unlikeliest of job interns, they are strangers in a strange land.


Now, know thee that nary a cliché on Moviedom’s shelf of worlds-colliding plots isn’t swept into use here as stereotypes clash, merge and explore the societal building blocks known as diversity. However, Mr. Vaughn, who wrote the script with Jared Stern, ups the sociocultural ante with some fairly decent cogitations on the watershed in question.


Granted, when filmmaker Levy threw all the movie’s parts into the air, they might have fallen in more astute arrangement. And there’s nothing here that’ll make the sociologists at Princeton wish they “had thought of that.” Still, while critics entrusted to save readers money will be hesitant to give their blessings, audiences are bound to be less persnickety.


Whether it’s due to overpopulation or homogenization caused by the mass media, or because some alien beings are cloning us, the aforementioned stereotypes seem to be in greater supply of late. Hence, we find those folks perpetrated in “The Internship” rather familiar, their foibles and strengths ready agar for satiric upbraiding and compliment.


I, for example, forever wishing I had a techie intern named Reggie, who I could bid to “download that, to speak to this, and connect therein so it’ll stream info from some app,” find solace in relating to Vaughn’s Billy and Owen Wilson’s Nick. Born before the computer claimed its place in our consciousness, they have a foot in both worlds.


But when the film’s fortyish, card carrying dinosaurs lose their jobs selling watches for a manufacturer’s rep (John Goodman) who cruelly informs that people now consult their phones for the time, circumstances demand they jump a chasm. Of course it takes our own leap of faith to believe these two could possibly land an internship at Google.


That noted, if you haven’t yet exceeded your suspension of disbelief quota this year, “The Internship” is worth an activation, not necessarily for full price at the Bijou, but when it plays Netflix or the other assorted, secondary purveyors. Messrs. Vaughn and Wilson are likeable Lewis and Clarks, glibly guiding us through the Brave New World.


Plus, as Billy and Nick voyage through the Valley of Nerds, we can’t help but become enamored of the ragtag group of castoffs with whom they team in competition for those few prized jobs. Natch, a synergy bespeaking the greater humanity evolves as not only do they learn Newspeak, but become ambassadors of the Old School and Lingua Yesteryear.


Tiya Sircar is Neha, the only woman on the roster, and the tacitly acknowledged princess. Talking a good game, alas, all her experiences are of the virtual kind. Tobit Raphael is Yo-Yo Santos, a self-deprecating overachiever with some serious Mom problems. But the hardest geek to crack is antisocial Stuart, played by Dylan O’Brien.


Everything’s a drag, real life is a bore, its denizens disingenuous. But that’s OK, says Nick, who smilingly tells him, “You’re gonna like me.” Also tutored in the joyful ways of the unextraordinary is Josh Brener as Lyle, the neophyte Google employee assigned to the team. The film stops short of including “Getting to Know You” in the musical score.


Among the roadblocks tossed before the motley crew, Aasif Mandvi is Mr. Chetty, the no-nonsense head of the internship program who, in the orientation scene picked for the trailer, standoffishly tells Billy, “No, I will not be having a cold one with you.” But the unmitigated villain spot is reserved for fellow intern Graham Hawtrey (Max Minghella).


If you’ve ever gone to school or worked anywhere, you know this scurrilous rat only too well…more concerned with your failure than his success. Gosh knows from what hole they crawl. But it’ll take a lot more than his ilk to besmirch the grandiosity of Google as it is showcased here. On first blush, it seems the most perfect place in the world to work.


What’s not to like? Free food, pods to nap in, volleyball, the best computer gadgetry, etc. Never mind that the all-inclusive “paradise” could be mistaken for futuristic feudalism, or worse. Nope, the purpose here is to paint a funny, positive portrait of both humankind and modern entrepreneurship, and in that respect “The Internship” gets the job done.

“The Internship,” rated PG-13, is a Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation release directed by Shawn Levy and stars Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson and Tiya Sircar. Running time: 119 minutes

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