by Tony Dayoub
Considering how easy it has been for moviegoers to score an advance ticket to The Internship (opening tomorrow), the lengths to which studio marketers have gone to prevent critics from publishing reviews are rather surprising. This week many major cities screened the film gratis for anyone, that's regardless of whether you actually had a pass or not, who was interested in attending. Yet critics were told to hold off on posting reviews until this afternoon. You'd think they were afraid of bad word of mouth or something, right? Unnecessary I say. Despite a rocky beginning, the new comedy re-teaming Wedding Crashers stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson rights itself halfway through, overcoming dull fish-out-of-water hijinks to become something sweeter revolving around starting over in mid-life.
Trailers have sold The Internship on trite humor derived from Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) losing their traveling salesmen jobs and competing with youngsters for unattainable internships at Google. And watching the film's first act won't allay any fears that it might be a stinker. Beyond simple misgivings about the product placement angle, humor involving Google's nooglers (newbies) having the upper hand against these tired veterans in competitions like Field Quidditch or debugging code falls flat because the suspension of disbelief being begged for is simply too much. One never really believes these guys (who are at least playing at being 40 years old like me) would either be so ignorant as to have never heard of Harry Potter or the X-Men or, even allowing for that, that these Luddites who don't know a Blackberry from a blueberry would be deluded enough to apply for a job with the ultimate multiplatform tech company. So as long as The Internship dwells in this area, the potential for appeal to anyone outside of the most elderly (and oblivious) demographic is limited.
Once Vaughn and Wilson take the rest of their team (comprised of a rainbow coalition of young geeks played by Josh Brener, Dylan O'Brien, Tobit Raphael and Tiya Sircar) out for a wild night at a strip club, things start to loosen up. And not in the raunchy way one would expect from the Apatow comedy sensibility currently prevailing at box offices but more in a sincere, heartfelt way that causes you to empathize with both Billy and Nick's emasculating feelings of obsolescence as well as the youngsters' inexperience with "the world out there," a direct result of having their heads buried in electronic devices for the entirety of their young lives. For as long as The Internship focuses on the natural humor arising from Billy and Nick's frustrations at not measuring up to the rest of the big brains surrounding them or on the social inadequacies limiting the personal development of their young teammates the movie succeeds. Fortunately, from its midpoint on, The Internship does just that.
Surprisingly, it is The Kings of Summer, an audience favorite at this year's Sundance Film Festival, that comes up short in terms of laughs. This thin, wistful story of a trio of boys and the summer when they ostensibly become men is weak tea. It mostly fails because it relies on the kind of indie clichés that can really get under one's skin: an overreliance on quirky characters, cultish acoustic music, and trick camera shots. And it does so at the expense of a story that one hopes, in theory, would reveal something personal or autobiographical about its filmmaker, Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Instead, what you get is more of a calling card/CV that Roberts hopes to peddle in order to be promoted to the helm of a big studio film. The cast (which includes Nick Offerman and wife, Megan Mullaly) is uniformly good if unimpressive, save for scene-stealer Moisés Arias. As the mysterious, creepy kid Biaggio, Arias provides absurd line-readings and physical comedy which always strike the right, perfectly timed note of inappropriateness. But in the middle of the pedestrian The Kings of Summer, it feels like a performance transplanted from Mars.