Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
What is The Internship about?
Art can mean different things to different people.
Okay, so the people at The Verge didn't like The Internship much. Neither did the people at The Onion.
Both critiques land a lot of solid blows, and I say that as a person who enjoyed the film more than I thought I would. But I was struck by this, from Dieter Bohn's review at The Verge:
Nearly 25 years later, we have The Internship, a buddy comedy about two old guys trying to reinvent themselves for the 21st-century economy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. But everybody knows (or will know) that it isn't really a movie about friendship or new beginnings — it's a movie about selling Google.
Wow. I didn't get that at all. There are four "about"s in those two sentences. I think he should have stopped after one and thought about what he just wrote. True, it's not really about friendship. And it's not about new beginnings, any more than Up in the Air was about new beginnings just because George Clooney gave lectures about chasing your dreams and found his own job threatened. Rather, like Up in the Air, it's about middle-aged anxiety. The world is changing, you don't understand how to adapt, and you're done (wrote the man who writes for a newspaper in 2013). It's not that you're not skilled. You may be highly skilled. It's that your skills are no longer relevant. Up in the Air delivered that message like a punch in the gut, which is why Clooney's little speech feels so damned slimy.
But The Internship? The Internship is the happy fairy-tale version of overcoming that anxiety. The story that if someone just gives you a chance, you can show them that your skills are still relevant, even in a world you don't really understand. Google is just a nicely visual manifestation of that world, what with its nap pods and its goofy terminology and its brightly colored beanies. Apple would have been even better, but you can bet that Apple wasn't letting its brand anywhere near anyone so uncool as Vaughn and Wilson's characters.
If Bohn hadn't been so upset by the Google-themed end credits, he might have noticed who wrote the story (and co-wrote the screenplay) for The Internship: Vince Vaughn. The Onion makes it clear that Vaughn's brand of motor-mouth comedy hasn't aged particularly well. You know who's probably feeling middle-aged anxiety right now? Vince Vaughn. So he wrote a story about it.
It's true that the comedy is spotty. It's true that the structure is hackneyed. But it's not true that The Internship is about how great Google is. It's about how awful the economy is, how painful it is to realize that you don't know how to imagine a better future, and how great it would feel to overcome that.