Another title for The Internship would be Google Crashers except that makes Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson sound like hackers.
"You mean, like, serial killers, like Freddy Krueger hacking up babysitters during summer camp?" they'd ask, mixing meanings and metaphors until logic is wadded and tossed, and protests that a point is being missed get drowned out by more distracting double talk. That's their motor-mouthed style — '80s Bill Murray times two — and eight years after Wedding Crashers it still works.
The Internship isn't in the same comedy league as that 2005 smash but close enough to make the playoffs for the funniest movie you'll see this season. Director Shawn Levy follows the anarchic formula devised by Animal House and perfected by Murray in Meatballs and Stripes: smart alecks where they don't belong proving to those who do that no-rules accomplishments are better, coaxing misfit sidekicks to join the revolt.
In this case, it's that 21st century hybrid of summer camp and technology known as Google getting conned, where geeks haven't quite inherited the Earth but know the pass codes. Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) are wristwatch salesmen rendered obsolete by their sudden awareness that cell phones also tell time. Desperate for new beginnings, they enroll in Google's internship program where everyone is younger, smarter and quick to remind the "life experienced" about it.
That superiority complex comes at the cost of social skills and involvement in a world beyond the computer screen. The Internship is a comedy about computer technology yet squarely aimed at Luddites fed up with nerds nagging about what they're missing by living offline. The humor is an underdog's fantasy, tapping the same vein Murray bled dry with self-important camp counselors and military officers; the less cool they are, the harder they'll fall.
Primed to be taken down several notches is Graham (Max Minghella), another "Noogle" — the title monogrammed on interns' propeller beanies — whose sense of entitlement is toxic. Graham is The Internship's Niedermeyer, a status climbing phony disrespecting even his own teammates. On the other hand Billy and Nick embrace the geek platoon they join, earning their respect in the movie's funniest sequence with tequila shots and lap dances.
The Internship could use more energetic scenes like that, and fewer pop-ups of improv carried too far, like Will Ferrell's early, uncredited intrusion. Several riffs are memorable — Billy and Nick's Skype interview with recruiters, Nick's purposefully bad dinner manners with a Google executive (Rose Byrne) — but not quite enough.
The nicest surprise is how Levy turns Hollywood's most flagrant product placements ever into a comedic advantage. Google products are everywhere yet without such cooperation the premise would be nowhere. The humor would be DOA, or even worse, AOL.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.