Vince Vaughn's The Internship and the Limits of a Movie Critic's Ability to Overcome Bad Marketing
I include that disclosure for one very simple reason: Because if you've seen the previews for The Internship, there is seemingly no other explanation for why I would say this, but The Internship is the funniest studio comedy of the year so far. Admittedly, that's not a terrifically high bar (Hangover III? Identity Thief?), so it might be more striking to say that The Internship is Vince Vaughn's funniest movie since The Wedding Crashers. Then again, that's not exactly a compliment, either, if you've seen Four Christmases, Couples Retreat, Fred Claus, or The Watch.
How about this, then: The Internship is a better, funnier movie than Wedding Crashers, a movie I absolutely adored. Now do you think I'm full of sh*t? Of course you do. You probably should. After all, I've seen Vince Vaughn's last five movies, and I've seen the previews for The Internship, so I would assume that I was full of sh*t if I hadn't witnessed The Internship for myself. Due out on Friday, the film sneak previewed over the weekend because 20th Century Fox had decided to tease the movie for audiences because it had tested through the roof with focus audiences. Before I'd even seen the film, however, I'd already mapped out a takedown review of inherent wrongness of focus testing. But hell if The Internship didn't win me over almost immediately, transforming the dread I felt going in into an equal amount of glee going out.
It's true: The Internship is a goddamn good comedy.
It is vintage Vince Vaughn, and it took a script that he co-wrote to recapture that old Vaughn magic. He is a terrific force in this film, fast-talking rat-a-tat-tatting throughout the picture, a perfect compliment to old-school confident Owen Wilson, all smiles and molasses-talking charm. The two play Billy and Nick, respectively, a couple of chatty high-end watch salesmen laid off because nobody wears watches anymore. With little skills other than the ability to bullsh*t and bring out the best in people, they luck their way into a Google internship, where they are placed with a team of misfits vying for a job at the end of the summer.
There is certain underdog formula to the film -- it's the Bad News Bears of the tech world -- but Vaughn and Wilson bring so much enthusiasm to their performances that it's hard not to be won over. There are some great comedic set pieces -- a Quidditch match, for instance, and a transformative drunken night out for a bunch of tech nerds -- but the reason why The Internship works -- and it works brilliantly -- is that familiar Vaughn/Wilson chemistry, which settles in almost immediately. The Internship is the perfect vehicle for them, combining the fish-out-of-water premise with their immensely persuasive conversational skills. It doesn't hurt, either, that Vaughn and Wilson are surrounded by some great talent in smaller roles, like Aasif Mandvi, B.J. Novak, and John Goodman, who is finally in a movie where he's not the only redeeming part (there's also a great cameo you should expect if you've seen The Wedding Crashers).
Thematically, it's a fascinating movie, too. It's a clash between the millennials -- who are forced to face reality after growing up coddled by their parents -- and Gen X, a generation dealing with the fact that they're being forced out of their jobs by technology. The Internship very well could've been a "get off my lawn" kind of movie, but Vaughn brings to the film effusive optimism about both generations adapting to modern life, about Gen X needing to learn new skills from the younger generation, while the millennials need to pull their heads out of their iPhones for a moment and appreciate the outside world. It is a hilarious movie, but it is also a hopeful and optimistic one.
But then again, I doubt any of you believe me. I do not have the ability to overcome the dreadful marketing that The Internship has suffered. I don't know that any review could overcome that, which is too bad because it means the rightfully cynical among you will ultimately miss out on a great summer comedy. Seeing is believing, but given the trailers for The Internship, who would pay to see?
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