The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


June 14, 2013

Benji Tunnell: Vaughn, Wilson phone it in for 'Internship'

JOPLIN, Mo. — Product placement has become an accepted part of everyday life. Movies were an early adopter of the idea, and some films have shown it is possible to include blatant product placement while integrating it into the plot.

One of the funniest scenes in "Wayne's World" was the simple act of running through all of the sponsors in one shot. The filmmakers knew that they needed to get the plugs in and opted to just get them out of the way. Likewise, in "Happy Gilmore," Adam Sandler just tosses a Subway ad directly into the film, leading to the final showdown in the movie.

"The Internship" is the story of a vast conglomeration in the form of Google opting to have a two-hour advertisement for all of its various products, ostensibly as a lighthearted comedy about the crushing weight of an unstable economy once someone is no longer part of the younger demographic and finds himself unemployed. Or at least I think that was it.

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play Billy and Nick, respectively; two watch salesmen who find themselves out of work after their company folds. The two flounder, underqualified for any line of work other than sales -- until Billy, on a whim, decides to apply for a Google internship for the both of them.

Despite their woeful lack of education, experience or competence, they manage to be selected for the program. This reflects very poorly on the overall screening process of a multi-billion dollar corporation, given that the two had only enrolled in the University of Phoenix shortly before so they could claim to be college students -- but we wouldn't have a movie if Google had higher standards, so off they go.

Upon arriving at the Google campus, the two immediately find themselves overwhelmed and out of place. They are assigned to a team of geniuses because no one else would have them, and their teammates rightfully resent these two incompetent buffoons, weighing them down as they try to land a job that could determine the rest of their lives.

Do the two succeed, against all odds and despite having no discernible skills, and manage to land one of the most coveted jobs in America? Does Nick win the heart of the ice queen far too young and sensible to ever give him a second glance? Does Billy get over his constant self-sabotage to finally begin to make something of his life? I'll give you two guesses, and the first one doesn't count.

The problems with the film are plentiful, and they start from the beginning. The movie opens to the beginning strains of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic," a hackneyed tune from the era in which these two found their greatest success as salesmen. And, much like how Morissette's lyrics don't seem to grasp the definition of the word irony, this movie doesn't seem to grasp the idea of comedy.

Vaughn and Wilson long ago decided that they didn't need to act when people would just cast them in films playing themselves. I remember how much I loved Vaughn's character in "Swingers"; all obnoxious bravado. Then he played the same character in "Made," again in "Dodgeball" and "The Wedding Crashers" and pretty much everything else he's done lately.

Likewise, Wilson has played the same floppy-haired, laid-back guy in just about everything he's made that wasn't directed by Wes Anderson or Woody Allen. The complete lack of variation in their roles has made each character seem interchangeable and generic. Once again, they don't seem intent on mixing it up for this film. It makes for two completely disposable and forgettable characters.

The script is pointless, plodding and dull, something most likely sketched out around the idea of making "Google: The Movie." When other characters act with resentment or outright hostility toward Billy and Nick, we are meant to be sympathetic to the two leads, yet every other character is completely justified in their feelings. These guys don't belong in the internship program, and them just being there risks torpedoing those who are actually qualified and should be there -- much like younger, more talented actors would be right to resent others for phoning in performances for big paychecks while they are scrounging for roles as extras.

There are thousands of funnier and more entertaining films out there. Rather than waste time and money on such redundancy, do a quick search on the Internet to find something more deserving of your attention. Only, consider using Bing.

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In an effort to curb prostitution, St. Louis police are targeting, and perhaps humiliating, the "johns" who use the services. Postcards mailed to the homes of those charged with trying to pick up prostitutes will offer a reminder about spreading sexually transmitted diseases, along with listing the court date. Do you think this is a good approach?

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