Once-potent pairing of Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson miss the grade in ‘The Internship'

Owen Wilson, left, and Vince Vaughn in a scene from
Owen Wilson, left, and Vince Vaughn in a scene from "The Internship."

For understandable marketing purposes, The Internship is being billed as "from the people who brought you Wedding Crashers."

But there's no comparison between the new comedy and the 2005 summer smash. Wedding Crashers was a well-executed R-rated romp starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. It was funny. The Internship is a generic PG-13 fish-out-of-water comedy crammed with age and culture clash gags that also stars Vaughn and Wilson. It is not funny. Certainly not with the consistency of Wedding Crashers.

Vaughn and Wilson are a pair of watch salesmen named Billy and Nick, respectively, who are desperate for a career reinvention after their company shutters. Billy happens upon their solution while Googling employment options for salesmen with little experience: the San Francisco-based tech company is hiring summer interns. He and Nick (Wilson) land an internship, along with about a hundred others, all of whom are smarter, younger, and considerably more proficient with technology.

The Internship: ★★
Director: Shawn Levy
Writers: Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Showing: Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons
Rating: PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying, and language.
Running time: 118 minutes.
  • Nick: Owen Wilson
  • Billy: Vince Vaughn
  • Dana: Rose Byrne
  • Neha: Tiya Sircar
  • Lile: Josh Brener

Rather than being judged on their own merits, however, the interns are divided into teams, with each group competing in a series of summer-long contests, with the winner awarded full-time jobs at Google.

Being the oldest of the bunch, Billy and Nick are saddled with the other intern outcasts on a misfit team of character clichés: Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael), a home-schooled Asian who lives in fear of his Tiger mom; Neha (Tiya Sircar), an attractive nerd girl who spins fantasies of Star Wars costume play, but secretly dreams of falling in love; Stuart (Dylan O'Brien), a cynical and sarcastic techie whose head is buried in his cell phone; and the leader of the group, Lile (Josh Brener), a young Google manager who doesn't know how to lead or even how to be himself.

At first, it's Generation X vs. Generation Y — jokes about age and technological incompetence rule the first half-hour — with the 20-something interns resenting the 40-something Billy and Nick. But as the group falters in the early contests, it's the older and wiser buddies who prove beneficial, as Billy and Nick begin to mentor the younger team members.

They offer speeches about reaching for your dreams and believing in yourself and in others — Billy is fond of using Jennifer Beals' welder struggling to be a dancer in Flashdance (1983) as an analogy. And in the process, the older interns grow. Nick, who has commitment issues with women, falls for an attractive Google manager (Rose Byrne), who has zero interest in him, while Billy must inevitably confront his penchant for self-destruction.

The comedy's predictable plot chugs along to a sunny ending that feels artificial and forced even in a movie that insists Nick can learn Internet coding in a manner of weeks, and that a night of drinking and bonding at a high-class strip club can be the cure-all for the younger interns' personality woes.

In only their second major on-screen pairing, Vaughn and Wilson have such an easy, unforced chemistry it's easy to smile at their first scene together as they sing along to an Alanis Morissette song in a car. But the good will wears out as it's soon apparent there isn't much for the actors to do in the film, other than riff their way through improvised scenes as we've seen them do in several other better comedies.

Unlike Wedding Crashers, which at least offered the challenge of building a story around two immoral but redeemable buddies, there's no edge or risk to The Internship, which Vaughn conceived and co-wrote with Jared Stern, who also cowrote last summer's dismal comedy The Watch. What could have been a witty farce of '80s comedies themes or a more thoughtful film addressing troubling economic realities and the subsequent forced reinvention of an unemployed workforce is content to shovel pabulum as feel-good moments, as the zeros turn into heroes.

The only major obstacles for this group outside of their own failings are a nasty rival intern (Max Minghella) and the Google manager (Aasif Mandvi) overseeing the internship program, who happens to be highly critical of Billy and Nick.

Minghella (The Social Network) is a cartoon of a Type-A personality who is one big karma waiting to happen. Mandvi has a few funny lines, but the role is one-dimensional.

Directed by Shawn Levy, The Internship is a gentle and family-friendly film that would play well as part of a 1980s comedy marathon in which misfits overcome their circumstances to triumph over their oppressors. (Think Police Academy and Summer School.) And while it's nice to have a Vaughn and Wilson buddy-up again, we can only wish they'd crashed another comedy instead.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.