A potential comedy classic is stymied by the happy-time interference of its corporate overlords.
Vince Vaughn has spent his entire career investigating the phrase "big man on campus". Whether he’s going back to college (Old School), reliving the rough and tumble of the playground (Dodgeball) or even crashing weddings (Wedding Crashers), he seems intent on recapturing the lost joys of some imagined, carefree youth in which he was, naturally, top dog.
We’ll leave the ultimate extrapolation of this furiously back-pedaling infantilism to the Freudians among you, but with his sperm-donor-based baby-com Delivery Man set to be released later this year, we can’t entirely discount some future project in which he actually returns to the womb. Possibly with Owen Wilson in tow.
The Internship gathers all Vaughn’s preoccupations into one basket, couching his mouthy alpha male joie-de-vivre in campus-related high-jinks and gap-year glee to offer a(nother) collegiate spin on his patented 'Inappropriate Tall Man Attends Delicate Social Function' schtick.
You’ve probably got his latest filed away in your mind-bin as That Google Film, but the details, for those who care, are that fast-talking but outdated salesmen Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson lose their jobs and decide to reinvent themselves by signing on for a course with Google that might eventually lead to the multicoloured net giants offering them an internship. The head of the programme (The Daily Show’s Asif Mandvi) thinks they’re dinosaurs, and the cool kids find them risible, so they have little option but to team up with a rag-tag crew of (high-achieving genius-level) losers and get busy.
Formulaic stuff to be sure, and outwardly perhaps not so very appealing. Vaughn’s patchy hit-to-miss ratio (to say nothing of Wilson’s) added to suspicions over the overarching involvement of Google might be enough to put many people off, but underneath the egregious corporate patina, The Internship turns out to be a sterling campus-com in the classic Bill Murray Meatballs/Stripes/Caddychack vein.
Vaughn (who also co-scripted) is on especially winning form, Wilson delivers a performance that recalls his old bounce, and the young dweebs they’re lumped in with are more than agreeable company. The inevitable Will Ferrell cameo also makes for a nice little diversion.
Yet for all this good running, many will have real trouble getting past the films central conceit. Google’s self-love, their distressing insistence on 'enforced fun', the wacky offices (Desks? Get over it, granddad!) and their garish, pristine campus appear intended to paint the company as a free-thinking adventure playground for the mind. Some will likely feel more like the Stepford wives have opened up a deeply shady theme park.
It’s just creepy. Yet – presumably to show Google in as a shining beacon of possibility – it’s all taken at face value. Not once do our pair of jaded, louche, analog beer-guzzlers take even the lamest potshot at the ominously freaky toytown they find themselves cocooned within.
In an age of 3D, CGI, motion-capture and live streaming, could there possibly be a machine somewhere – possibly something James Cameron's tinkering with – that could suck all the Googliness (their word) out of The Internship? If such a process were put to use, whatever was left behind after the Goo was removed would be something of a minor comedy classic. As it stands, however…
No, I don’t want to work for Google! And the more fun you try and make it sound, the more ghoulish the prospect becomes.
Funny, warm, witty and well played, but the unfortunate stench of corporate overlording ultimately masks the underlying sweetness.
What’s the American for ‘own goal’? This will date rather badly, and possibly very quickly.