Review: 'The Internship'

When Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson teamed up for 2005’s “Wedding Crashers,” nobody quite expected its $200-million-plus domestic haul. For whatever reason, it’s taken the raucous duo eight years to reunite, and for whatever reason, they’ve agreed to do so in a Google commercial disguised as every other campus comedy ever made, albeit with party-hearty nonsense and fish-out-of-water antics tempered down to PG-13 levels for maximum mediocrity.

Vaughn and Wilson star in "The Internship" as Billy and Nick, middle-aged manufacturer’s reps for a wristwatch company abruptly canned, having been rendered obsolete by cell phones. What’s worse, Billy’s girlfriend walks away (“You talk a big game!” she shouts) while Nick’s sister (“You always play it safe!” she implores) gets him a job with her vulgar husband (Will Ferrell, of course) at a mattress showroom. Billy’s big plan for the both of them? Landing a job at Google... by landing an internship there first... by enrolling in classes online at the University of Phoenix.

Why Google? Because Billy hears that they’re the best company in America to work for. Never mind that neither man has any tech savvy to call their own, screaming into webcams and mistaking C++ for letter grades. For two schmoes presumably faced with a tough job market -- we never see any other opportunities given so much as a shot -- Billy and Nick have decided to apply to Mt. Everest because they heard it has a great view.  They make their way to San Francisco and Google HQ, where they find themselves sneered at by Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi) and Brit bully Graham (Max Minghella) before being lumped together with three leftover candidates (Dylan O’Brien, Tiya Sircar, Tobit Raphael) and dweeby team leader Lile (Josh Brener), all keen on dominating challenges in order to ultimately land full-time positions there. (Well, not Lile, but the rest.)

A full two hours of interminable competition ensues, filled to the brim with mainstream pop culture references rendered acceptably geeky by the likes of “The Big Bang Theory” (“Star Wars,” “X-Men” and Quidditch all play their part) while Wilson and Vaughn stand around and constantly riff in a manner more befitting an ad for Bing than a movie devoted to Google (and boy, is it -- I counted 45 mentions of that name and variations thereof, like “Googlers” and “Googliness”). The search engine “single-handedly cuts into my ability to bulls**t,” Wilson confesses to a workaholic supervisor/requisite love interest (Rose Byrne). For the film, it’s just the opposite, with Google’s flagrant agenda of world-betterment nearly upstaging the stars at every turn.

Even if producer/co-writer Vaughn and director Shawn Levy had opted to set the film at a fictional company, the faux-college cliches are still in full swing, between Graham’s alpha-nerd routine, the need for our leads to loosen up their own gang of misfits (Raphael is regrettably saddled with the “uptight Asian kid with domineering mother” stereotype, while Brener opts for awkward gangsta slang) and the third-act technicality setback. Although Fred Claus and the Butterscotch Stallion do maintain their reliable chemistry, their odd-men-out banter hardly rivals the manic inappropriateness of either “Crashers” or “Old School” before that. (Rob Riggle even puts in an appearance of similar seediness to Will Ferrell’s role in “Wedding Crashers,” quite possibly down to the exact minute.)

Despite a second-act detour to a strip joint, Levy (“Date Night,” the “Night at the Museum” franchise) continues to play it safe. In fact, “The Internship” rivals the aggressively bland “Larry Crowne” for sheer tepidness, if not worse due to the exhaustive product placement for a company whose real-life presence is unlikely to soon wane. When the biggest laugh in a movie about two fortysomething funnymen going to work for a tech giant is Minghella purring Nelly lyrics in a sauna, maybe Google isn’t the first thing they should have been searching for.

SCORE: 3.6 / 10