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Thursday, June 13, 2013 08:31 am

Internship surprises as sincere summer sleeper

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Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in The Internship.
PHOTO COURTESY 20TH CENTURY FOX

Every summer season produces a sleeper, a film that comes out of nowhere and exceeds expectations. Shawn Levy’s The Internship is that movie for 2013. It succeeds in not only delivering some solid laughs but also manages to provide a pleasant romantic subplot. Equally important is its vital, timely message that should be embraced by all who find themselves swept away by the stifling wave of technology that seems to grow larger with each passing day.

Having proved to be an effective comedic duo in 2005’s Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are paired here again, albeit in a far less ribald feature. They are Nick and Billy respectively, two watch salesmen who suddenly find themselves out of work. Desperate to make something of their lives before the clock runs out on them, they enroll in the internship program at Google and miraculously get through the vetting process to be admitted. They soon realize that they’re in over their heads, clueless to their surroundings and all the work being done there. This does not sit well with their teammates, a group of college kids who are required to work with them in an effort to win as many competitive tasks as possible, the end game being job offers at the corporation.

The most effective humor is mined from the generation gap that exists between Nick and Billy and these geeks who will inherit the Earth. They are completely adrift in a real-life Quidditch match, have no clue how Skype works and drive these kids mad with their non-sequiturs that reveal their techno-speak ignorance. Instead of saying “on-line,” Billy says “on the line,” while his idea for a new app, “Exchange-A-Gram,” has a far too familiar ring to it to be viable. And while the film goes to the metaphor-well a bit too often for laughs, the conviction in which they’re delivered makes up for their overuse.

To be sure, this is a clever movie but it does have a timely and meaningful theme that needs to be embraced as the techno-world we live in, which was touted as being able to bring us closer together, has actually driven us further and further apart. While their young colleagues ultimately get Nick and Billy up to speed for the 21st century, they teach these socially awkward kids how to interact with others and actually put their computers and smartphones aside to live life. While so many of today’s younger generation are computer savvy, the fact that most of their social interactions are isolated and vicarious experiences is a dire situation and one whose impact on society as whole has yet to be measured. Going out on an all-night bender, actually talking to the woman you’re attracted to face to face and taking a chance on love are all lessons that are delivered by these not-so-elder statesmen to marvelous effect. Surprisingly, Levy and his two stars take a subtle approach where this is concerned, ultimately making the message all the more palpable.

As a promotional tool, this presents Google in the best possible light and what with its recreation of its environment of endless free food, sleep pods and research areas fashioned to look like playgrounds, there’s no question the firm will see a spike in inquiries for perspective employees. However, the masterstroke here is that it is also seen as a place where the human element is welcomed and encouraged. Funny, romantic and poignant, The Internship effectively reminds us that there must be a bit of soul behind every machine or we run the danger of becoming as cold and remote as the high-tech tools we use. 

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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