Two comedies this week, showing that this is seemingly the only genre that
will now commission original scripts for. They are both patchy efforts, hit and
miss, have their moments of humour and originality, while also slouching into
longueurs of laziness and predictability. Hollywood
The Internship is saved by the charm and likeability of Owen Wilson, and by his double act with Vince Vaughan. Their characters are called Nick and Billy, but this is really a pretence, we are watching Wilson and Vaughan playing a version of every other character they have played in previous films.
They are two guys in their forties, who end up as interns in Google, among a bunch of over-achieving twenty year olds. This is a neat set-up with a lot of potential, something that the movie just fails to adequately exploit.
There are the usual clichés and predictable plot turns. We have the sheltered, home-schooled Asian kid driven with a dragon for a mother, the cute manager (Rose Byrne) who Owen Wilson falls for, the bullying, contemptuous nemesis of our two heroes, played with no subtlety by Max Minghella, and the socially awkward nerd who has a crush on his dance teacher.
Naturally, the outcasts, - or outliers, as one of the characters calls them - form a team to try and win the full time jobs on offer at Google, and overcome their own lack of belief and inability to work together. It is the classic underdog tale, and has its moments of charm and likeability, but is all wrapped up a little too neatly, with no effort really on the part of the central characters.
There are some good jokes though, and an attempt at a message here, that human values like communication and invention are just as important as technology for human progress, but overall this is a vehicle for Wilson and Vaughan. How you feel about them will colour whether this is worth seeing or not.
If Vaughan and Wilson are basically playing a version of themselves in The Internship, there is a gang of actors in This is the End that is doing literally that. James Franco plays James Franco, Seth Rogen plays Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill plays Jonah Hill.
They are not the only ones. The film centres on a party at Franco's house in LA, where many of the great and good of the entertainment world are. Rihanna makes an appearance, Emma Watson from Harry Potter shows up, twice, and Michael Cera steals the show as a coke-addled, ass-hole version of himself.
And then the Apocalypse happens, and the good people begin to be called up into heaven. The joke here is that all of the famous people are either pulled into hell, or left on Earth to deal with demons and devils and the end of days.
This becomes the central theme of the film, the attempt to satirise rich, famous people's self-regard and self-obsession. And it works, largely. We see the actors forming a kind of alliance that constantly breaks down when confronted with their own selfishness and cowardice, and we get to laugh at their cluelessness and avarice.
And yet this kind of ironic meta-narrative is also a kind of a sign of solipsism and self-regard. Rogen, Franco, Hill et al are all so desperate to make fun of themselves, so insistent on showing us how self-deprecating they are, that this in itself becomes a kind of narcissism. "Look at us," the actors, and the characters in the movie are saying, "look at how self-deprecating and self-aware we are. Look at how we can make fun of ourselves."
Still, it is a lot of fun, and though it does turn into a bit of a mess towards the end (with a bizarre appearance from the Backstreet Boys), there are original ideas here, carried out with energy and wit and irreverence.