'The Internship' Movie Review: Cynical, Ageist Millennials Bully Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson
As if the "me me me" generation doesn't get enough flak, The Internship makes our peers look like a bunch of spoiled, disengaged, ignorant, cynical, and mean-spirited kids with no respect for their elders ... at least in the beginning of the movie.
The comedy, which follows salesmen Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson) as they throw themselves into a Google internship upon getting fired from their dead end sales jobs, doesn't bring out the best in 20-somethings, even though some of the young folks redeem themselves midway through the film. After getting canned, Billy and Nick start fresh in Silicon Valley, where they've managed to land competitive internships at Google despite having no experience in tech. Hoping the internship will lead to full-time work, they immerse themselves in the program and are immediately met with suspicion from their young fellow interns, who say the American Dream is dead and their futures will be ruined if they make a single mistake.
"You're too young to be this cynical," Billy and Nick tell the 20-somethings, none of which seem to want to change their tune. They just want to work, because nothing else is certain for them at that point in time. Even Google's amazing office, which includes slides, free coffee and bagels, nap rooms, dry cleaning services, bikes, volleyball courts, and more perks than one could ever imagine, doesn't bring them joy, because nothing matters if they can't be the best interns of the whole batch.
At the beginning of the summer, all the interns are told to create their own groups. Similar to picking people for teams during middle school gym, the process alienates the undesirables excluded from groups. Billy and Nick wind up with a couple other folks who just aren't cool enough for other teams: Yo-Yo, a boy whose mother torments him for not being perfect, Neha, a girl who is all talk and no action, Stuart, an apathetic teenager glued to his smartphone, and Lyle, a precocious geek who plays a caricature of himself to make friends. Though imperfect themselves, these four judge Billy and Nick from the start, sending the two on a suicide mission at Stanford and banning them from their lunch table. They make a ton of jokes about the men being old and useless, and quite frankly, it feels a lot like bullying, even though the team warms up to their more seasoned groupmates during a Quidditch match later in the film.
Then there's Graham, a pretentious, apparently British millennial who represents everything that's wrong with the competitive Silicon Valley culture. He aims to be the best, even if that means picking teammates who don't meet his aesthetic standards, like an overweight kid who takes a blow at the Quidditch game so the team can win. He also frequently makes jabs at Billy and Nick, namely Billy, for being ancient, directionless, and incompetent. I get that he's supposed to be a villain, but the cruelty is a little much, and the ageism will make you cringe more than the jokes and goofy scenes will make you laugh.
There are some definite funny lines throughout the flick, and I found myself laughing a lot at Lyle's daffy sense of humor and the animated tone of the film. The more taboo jokes just don't feel right, though, and that goes for Yo-Yo's bad relationship with his mother. The Internship plays on the abusive Asian parent stereotype, which comes across as uncomfortable and racist. This movie shouldn't have to resort to the "my mom beats me" shtick to entertain audiences, but it also shouldn't have to include such a nasty millennial portrayal upfront to get its message across that young people can be really difficult in the workforce. Even though many of them are nice in the end, the depiction seemed kind of unnecessary and took away from the film's theme of hitting the reset button and overcoming adversity through risk-taking.
Have you seen the movie? What are your thoughts? Let me know on Twitter: @LauraDonovanUA