The Internship

When I saw the first trailer for this movie, I was a little concerned. It looked like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were trying to survive on the vapors of past success. Time marches on for all of us and the idea of these two making a raunchy comedy seemed a little distasteful. As it turns out there is almost nothing raunchy about this. It enhances the story that these two are a little long in the tooth and it plays like a more straightforward comedy from the 1990s, with a newer subject but the same mixture of humor and heart that was so typical of that era. This is much closer to “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” than to “Wedding Crashers”. As a result it is a fairly easy film to recommend to a wide audience. Last summer I could smell the stink on “The Watch”, and I avoided it, this year, I was suspicious but I am really glad I did not turn my nose up at it.

The setup is something anybody of a generation from before 1990 will be able to relate to. The world has changed, and while you might have a good skill set, it may not be the one that anyone is looking for anymore.   Nick and Bill are sales guys who have a great personal touch but are antiques in the modern age of communication. It seems strange to think that guys like this are old school, but since that was the name of one of the early hits for Vaughn, maybe it is correct. This is basically a fish out of water story, and as such it comes down to how willing you are to believe that the fish can master a new environment. There are a couple of cheats just for laughs. I think guys in their forties are going to know who the X-Men are and would not fall for the joke that is teased in the trailer. One of them even makes a more current pop culture referent to “The Hunger Games”. So they are not totally out of touch.  Someone savvy enough to do a Google Hangout for a job interview is likely to know of “Instagram”. Other than a couple of short cuts like that the film manages to be pretty realistic in setting up the characters at the internship they manage to get with Google. Programming and engineering are not their strong suit and so the movie plays best when showing them struggling with the technical side of the job.

Everyone on their intern team becomes a dutch uncle, pointing out their weaknesses. There is a snotty rival team member who discourages one character so much that the obligatory plot complication in the last act seems pretty reasonable. Outsiders are vulnerable to self doubt, although the Vince Vaughn character of Bill, seems like the least likely of the two to give into it. Some good seeds were planted early on so it is not a complete contrivance. We get some nice background bits without having too much of the characters played by Rob Riggle and Will Farrell. Riggle gets enough screen time to be mildly disturbing but not so much that you wish the part was gone from the film. Farrell on the other hand, brings the movie to a complete stop in his brief time on screen. The scene is needed for us to believe that Wilson’s character would go along with Vaughn, but Farrell does his usual scream acting. He seems to believe that louder is funnier. In fact it is just irritating. He has become a parody of himself instead of an interesting personality. Vaughn and Wilson are doing some of the same stuff they have done for years but they freshen it up, and actually try to make it work for the story. It is an interesting contrast in the development of their careers.

I’ll tell you who this film will not work for: hipsters. It is too conventional and the characters are too grounded to satisfy the desire for the new and innovative. I on the other hand appreciate a story that is well crafted, even if it is derivative. The construction of a good meal starts with solid ingredients, and a good recipe. Sometimes people don’t want the ravioli with chipolte tomato bisque and goat cheese. They want a simple ravioli with a good meat sauce. It may not be as inventive but it will go down well and it is usually a lot more satisfying. If you hate movies that you can see the story arc from a mile away on, than you should skip this. If you like a movie that tells a fun story and is well performed and very entertaining, than this is right up your alley. Wilson is his usual surfer burnout persona, but it was used very nicely here. Vaughn is the emotionally driven cheerleader type, but it was limited to reasonable doses along the way. The “Flashdance” inspiration story is not nearly as irritating in the film as it was in the trailer, so don’t be scared away. The Google connection is the biggest product placement component I have seen since FedEx in “Cast Away”. You can’t get around it, and while it looks like it might be interesting, it also makes me a little squeamish. The work environment feels just a couple of steps away from “Stepford”, where everything is perfect.

This film was so much better than I thought it was going to be. It is a conventional comedy, and that was the biggest surprise. The script and story are largely a result of Vince Vaughn’s work, and he is not swinging for the fences. He is trying to keep the game going by getting a hit and he manages a solid double. I can’t say that everyone will like it, it may be a little staid for younger audiences, expecting filthy language, outrageous behavior and cutting edge humor. If you are looking for a pleasant evening at the movies, with a date or a friend, than “The Internship” will be rewarding enough for you. You will be glad that you applied and the experience will be worthwhile.

Furious 6 or Fast and Furious Six, or

I saw the original Fast and Furious in 2001. That was twelve years and five whole movies ago. It was a guilty Summer pleasure that did not stick with me for more than a minute or two. I do remember that it was the last time I went to Universal Studios, right after the 9/11 attacks, because the cars from the movie were on display. Nothing fancy, they were just sitting there. OK, that was kinda cool for two minutes and then I moved on. It appears a lot has happened in the last ten years, the movies are now heist films, the good guy from the first movie is now a member of the criminal gang, and Dwayne Johnson has had some dealings with them in the past as some kind of U.S. Federal agent. That last part works out well for me because I like the former “Rock”. He is an action star with some charisma.

It does not work out as well for Vin Diesel. I have no problems with him except that he is incredibly unexpressive in this whole movie. His tone of voice never varies, I don’t remember any facial expression that could be described as more than a slight smirk, and he has a whole bunch of ponderous lines he has to read. Johnson by comparison is full of attitude, the voice changes from scene to scene,  and he only does two or three incredibly silly, gravity defying action moves. Don’t get me wrong, the flying headbutt that Diesel performs is fun, but it is also over the top ridiculous. This is Johnsons third big film of the Spring and he has not outworn his welcome yet. Diesel on the other hand needs a cup of Joe and some Benzedrine. I saw the trailer for the Riddick movie coming out later this year, he looks sleepy in that also.

“Furious 6” features a returning cast member who was apparently presumed dead. She now has to be recovered and a strategic genius rogue British Special Forces guy has to be defeated. We open the film with a car race. There is a car race in the middle of the film pitting Diesel against his old amnesiac girlfriend. The film ends with a car race in Tokyo. In between the car races are car chases. The primary difference between the two types of car activities seems to be that the crashes are deliberate in the chases.  If you are not into car chase shots and racing motifs, you should skip this movie (and hell why would you even have thought of seeing it in the first place?). Although it is set up as something of a heist film, there is only one element that fits that bill and it is mostly buried in the big car chase that involves a tank. I like cars well enough, but I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a gearhead. They don’t really talk much about the cars or show why one might be better than another, and it seems that they will have an endless supply to crash as the movie goes on.

There are a half dozen or more “good guy” characters to keep track of, and an equal number of villains. I suppose we have met some of Diesel’s crew in the earlier films, I’ll just accept them as they are and treat them like the established characters in any continuing series. I did not feel any particular affection for any of them, and there was only one scene where Johnson and one of the crew take a little revenge on a snooty car broker, that had much comedic value. This movie could use a stronger plot for the villain, and better dialogue for the secondary characters. It could also be tightened up by about twenty minutes. Some of the chases go on way to long. Instead of a breezy 90 minutes it is a ponderous two hours plus. Nonsense works best when it is brief and to the point. This movie is of course complete nonsense. That does not mean it isn’t fun. I had a pretty good time, even though I was frequently lost in all the car chases trying to figure out which set of cars was chasing what other set of cars. No one seems capable of dying in a car crash, and they all appear to be the worst marksmen in the world. That’s OK because then they can race again a little while later.

I did like the character of Gina Carano, as Johnsons sidekick. She is a tough looking but attractive woman who looks great fighting.  I saw her in “Haywire” last year and she should definitely be doing these action kinds of films. Her character is wasted in a plot line that was not necessary and is a contrived cliché. It does appear however that in the next movie, we will get a different kind of kick ass character. I don’t know if there is some story line I missed in the previous movies, but it looks like “Handsome Rob” is going to be an antagonist in the next film and that short burst of charisma he injects in the film at the end makes the villain in this movie look tepid.