Vince Vaughan and Luke Wilson seem to bring a certain energy to their partnership, which is evident during their latest collaboration in “The Internship.”
This is not rolling-in-the-aisle funny, but there is a certain ironic humor throughout. And there’s definitely something spot-on about the subject matter.
Billy (Vaughan) and Nick (Wilson) are two career salesmen who suddenly find themselves without jobs, because the watch company they were working for went out of business (everybody uses cell phones now). They’re forty-ish, and a little young to be cultural dinosaurs, but they find that their skill set is not very marketable. Nick’s sister finds him a job selling mattresses at the store owned by her sleazy husband, and Nick feels doubly demeaned by having to need his sister’s help and work for her dirt-bag spouse who keeps hitting on the customers.
Billy is not faring much better. His girlfriend has left him because, she says, she’s tired of being let down. In his Internet surfing he comes across a notice from Google, the giant tech firm, advertising for summer interns, and Billy immediately convinces Nick to apply together with him. Their quirkiness may not be next to “Googliness,” but they at least get a shot. Alas, when they arrive at the gleaming San Francisco headquarters, they find that everybody else is younger—much younger. And tech-savvy. They find themselves on a “team” with three other hopefuls, all brilliant, all techno-nerds, all wondering how these two “older” guys are ever going to be of any use to the team during the cutthroat competitions.
At first, Billy and Nick are so out of their element that they find it difficult even speaking the same language as the rest, because the cultural references are so different. Billy and Nick make reference to Alanis Morissette songs like “Ironic” (1995), and the movie “Flashdance” (1983). The others are referencing comic book heroes like Batman, or else “Ender’s Game” (a book and video series not yet released on film), or a video game unfamiliar to Billy and Nick. One of the competitions involves a game of quidditch, a Harry Potter reference which Billy and Nick don’t get, either. Yes, and the young ones are constantly “plugged in,” and seem to know about writing programming code. But they are painfully lacking in social skills. And this, at last, is where Billy and Nick can make a contribution. They can team-build. They can encourage everyone, and value everyone’s contribution. And yes, they can show these youngsters how to let go every once in a while and just have a good time, together. Not everything in life is about working harder.
OK, it’s kind of hokey. But it kind of works. Those of us who have lived long enough to enjoy the privilege of being considered outmoded will recognize the dynamics of somehow simultaneously feeling that the world has passed you by, but also continuing to insist that you still have something to offer, that there’s still some gas in the tank. It’s not exactly The Triumph of the Old School, but it is a subtle suggestion that we all need each other. Even if some of us have never played quidditch.
RONALD P. SALFEN is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.