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Is 'The Internship' an Equal Opportunity Offender?

It's meant to be one of The Internship' s signature comedy bits.  Failed watch salesman and Google summer intern Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn) is trying to come up with a brand new app - if his team, which includes his buddy Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson) can create the coolest one, they'll be a step closer to their dream of winning a full time job with the tech giant.

The rest of the team, by the way, and nearly everyone else in the movie is under 23.

The Internship Poster

What about a thingy where you take pictures with your phone and put them "on the line," McMahon exclaims. The young Googler mentoring the team corrects him, gently at first, "online."

Worth a smile, as is the concept that McMahon, tech ignoramus that he is, has never heard of Instagram, or its many rivals. As he continues, he refuses the correction. "On the line," he says. "Online," the kid repeats. And on and on.

And so we move from the buddy comedy of The Wedding Crashers, where Vaughn and Wilson charmed, to Dumb and Dumber, without the wit.

See also: Bill Newcott reviews The Internship (with 3 pretty enthusiastic stars)

The whole movie, in fact, is based on the premise that these super-salesmen would never have developed any tech savvy, and would be totally at sea in the hip Shangri-la of Google's Bay Area campus. If that's what the movie thinks of 40-somethings Wilson and Vaughn, a friend asked me, what about us 60-somethings? And would the movie venture an opinion of 80-somethings?

We don't wait long to find out.  The Internship takes us to a senior center, where McMahon, flunking out of his Google gig, has been sent by his old boss, played by John Goodman, who's now peddling high-end scooters.  He's partnered with an amoral boob (SNL alum Rob Riggle), who teaches him that even here, sex sells. Rejecting a foursome with two winsome 80-year-olds, the horrified McMahon comes to his senses and rejoins the team of interns vying for those precious jobs.

That's where Craig Seligman, writing in Bloomberg News, lost patience. "Underneath the cloddishness and squalor," he writes, "lies something sadder: a terror of aging. A sequence set in a retirement community cracks wheelchair jokes and sinks to the level of mocking old women who still think about sex."

Vaughn, who is credited with the story, and who cowrote and coproduced the film, is probably the one to blame for its shaky premise. So here are some corrections:

The digital revolution was created by folks like Steve Jobs, who would be 58 today, and Bill Gates, 57, building on the work of pioneers like Vint Cerf of, yes, Google, who's about to celebrate his 70th birthday. For those of us who were there, we'll never forget the moment Al Gore invented the Internet. ( Actually, he never said he did.) For the most part, the Web is less than 20 years old. Some of the people who made it what it is today are older than that, some younger.

There's more:


All joking aside, The Internship's other point, that soft skills like leadership, team building and salesmanship are necessary in today's high tech world, is to be applauded. But not at the cost of misguided assumptions about the technical ineptness of anyone over 30.

Wait, that sounds familiar. Wasn't our generation the first to say: "Don't trust anyone over 30"? Maybe it's partly our own fault that our ridiculous ageist nonsense has come back to bite us in the butt.



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