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Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
What do you get when you combine the dumbest and most formulaic kind of Hollywood dude comedy with the most smug and self-congratulatory grade of information-economy arrogance? Apparently you get “The Internship,” a two-hour infomercial for one of the world’s biggest technology companies that fronts as a laddish Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson farce. Unless it should be phrased the other way around, and “The Internship” is better understood as a machine-made conventional comedy that breaches new frontiers in product placement – by branding the entire film with a corporate logo so familiar that you’ve probably seen within the last five minutes.
Either way this movie is stuffed to the brim with “Googliness,” a word that is used several times, in a pseudo-whimsical fashion that’s supposed to make you think it’s not corporate drone-speak. It means something like: Innovative! Or: Nerdy, while also fun and team-spirited! Or: Totally workaholic and subservient, and acclimated to a ruthless Darwinian economy where talented young people are pitted against each other, Hufflepuff vs. Gryffindor style, in a geek-Olympics where they work really hard all summer for no money in the hope of someday, somehow, getting an actual job! So, so much Googliness. What this movie and all its Googliness produces in me is “oogliness,” that feeling well known to tech-company interns on Friday nights where you have to leave one foot on the floor and place a bucket by your head when you go to sleep.
Not only does “The Internship” set a breathtaking new standard in inter-corporate fellatio, it also accomplishes something genuinely unusual by insulting two different target demographics at once. Veteran Hollywood comedy hack Shawn Levy (of the “Night in the Museum” movies and “Date Night,” which by his standards was a masterpiece), working with a screenplay by Vaughn and Jared Stern, portrays the film’s Googly younger generation as a pack of cynical and damaged little pricks, while depicting the 40ish Vaughn and Wilson characters as buffoonish losers unfamiliar with such radical new terminology as “app” or “online” or “coding.” There’s an entire gag about the fact that Google interviewers believe that Billy, Vaughn’s character, has represented himself as knowing the programming language C++, when what he really meant is that in school he got a C-plus in typing class. Comedy gold. And then there’s the extended scene when Billy learns, with ever-increasing Googly-eyed wonder, that the coffee and bagels and pizza and pudding and so on at You Know Where are all free. “Free? Free, as in free?” You know it, dude – free as in just like all that labor you’re performing for the company (oh snap).
What makes “The Internship” especially unfortunate is that there are pieces of a better, funnier movie lying around here, pretty much unnoticed. As always, Owen Wilson is a delightful screen presence, even though his character, Nick, remains almost completely devoid of distinguishing characteristics and his budding romance with Dana (Rose Byrne), an Aussie overworked career-woman type, never amounts to anything more than a nice idea. Perhaps because he helped write and produce the film, Vaughn delivers one of his leanest and most focused performances in recent years, largely free of the paunchy, hollow-eyed belligerence he’s exhibited way too often. Billy is a sweet but lost alpha-male from a bygone era, a glad-handing, boozy salesman whose refusal to dislike anyone is both his strength and his downfall.
It’s just that almost everything that happens to Nick and Billy – who are mistaken for a same-sex couple when they first get to Google; that movie would definitely have been better than this one – is a hackneyed and/or stupid fragment of some marginally superior comedy. They lose their jobs selling watches for John Goodman (in a throwaway role), and Nick signs on to sell mattresses for his sister’s repulsive brother-in-law, played by Will Ferrell with a goatee, a weird Sanskrit tattoo and an unnecessarily public appetite for anal sex. Ferrell’s character is unsettling, but at least suggests some unexpected dark places this movie might go. Instead, once Billy gets the brilliant idea of being the oldest Google internship applicants in history, we go straight into episodic and utterly predictable group-of-misfits comedy.
I know this counts as an outrageous spoiler, but once relocated to the candy-colored and sun-splashed Google campus, Nick and Billy become the linchpins of a deeply uncool team of young interns who discover their total awesomeness. There’s the overly detached hipster with rectangular glasses, the white kid who talks black, the home-schooled Asian genius who needs to break loose and the geek-fetish girl who turns out to be a virgin. And while it’s true that Nick and Billy bring absolutely nothing to the table, information-technology wise, they do possess important life skills when it comes to hitting on strippers and ordering rounds of Jägermeister.
There are a few oddly endearing moments from Vaughn and Wilson along the way, to go with an OK performance from Max Minghella as the Draco Malfoy of Google interns, and an awkward one from the generally reliable Aasif Mandvi. But nothing about Google or its campus or its vaunted corporate culture is ever presented with anything that even touches irony or sarcasm or humor, unless you count the suggestion that, by golly, its senior employees sure do work hard. Mercifully, this movie is so dreadful that it probably won’t pave the way for a zany comedy about BP’s corporate response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or Judd Apatow’s goofball farce about the crazy friendship between Jamie Dimon and Vikram Pandit. Anyway those movies just wouldn’t have the same sloshing, gooey kind of Googliness.
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.
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