We love sequels. Well, maybe not always — there’s another Transformers coming this weekend — but studios love shoving them down our throats. And why not: Hollywood has learned that it’s easier to get people to see a movie that’s a continuation of something they liked before than risking being original. As a result, when a hit movie doesn’t get a sequel, it’s almost perverse. But with some films, the lack of a Part Two is not from lack of trying.
Take Wedding Crashers, one of the biggest blockbusters from the summer of 2005. The story of two lawyers, played by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, who are unrepentant bachelors crashing weddings to sleep with vulnerable single women, the film has prompted sequel speculation for more than a decade. In fact, when I interviewed director David Dobkin in 2017, he sounded pretty confident we’d be getting a follow-up soon. “None of us really wanted to (do a sequel) unless there was a great idea,” he told me. “Then, about a year and a half ago, a light bulb went on in my head, and I sat down with Vince and Owen about it, and we all liked it. That’s in development now. We’ll see how it comes out. If it comes out really, really good, we’ll take a swing.”
But that was six years ago. As of now, there’s still no word about a Wedding Crashers 2 happening. Of course, you could argue that there was a Wedding Crashers sequel already — or, at least, a reunion of its two stars. Ten years ago today, that movie came out. It was The Internship. It wasn’t very good, and it didn’t do very well. Why not? Well, because it followed the Wedding Crashers formula, except without much of the stuff that made Wedding Crashers so memorable.
Movie ideas come from everywhere. The Internship was inspired by Vaughn watching a segment on 60 Minutes about Google that touted it as an amazing place to work. “I thought, ‘This is so different from what we were raised for what a job (could) be,’” Vaughn said in 2013. “People have chefs around. They’re taking naps. They’re playing games on their campus. It looks like a fun college campus and being from the Midwest, you picture a job like you go to the office and they pay you as little as possible, try not to give you a lunch break, and so it’s very different in that kind of culture. So it seemed fun to take the concepts of Owen and I being two guys, like a lot of people in life right now, who’d fallen on hard times and get a chance to go to what seems to be the most fun place to work in the world. Also, guys who maybe missed the cultural experience now going and trying to catch up in that world without having the necessary skill sets.”
That’s essentially the plot of The Internship, which was written by Vaughn and Jared Stern (who would go on to co-write The Lego Batman Movie). Vaughn and Wilson had been friends before Wedding Crashers and had been looking for something else to do together: The Internship, directed by Shawn Levy, the Night at the Museum auteur who’d just finished Real Steel, allowed the two pals to play variations on their overgrown-bros personae from that earlier smash. In The Internship, Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) are salesmen, a very old-fashioned job, whose company goes belly-up. They decide to compete to get jobs at Google, quickly discovering that everybody else, including their bosses, are much younger and way more tech-savvy. Can these old dogs learn new tricks?
There was no reason why The Internship, which was released by 20th Century Fox, couldn’t have worked. It’s a funny-enough fish-out-of-water premise, and Vaughn and Wilson still had plenty of chemistry. But in hindsight, so many red flags were evident. For one thing, the filmmakers arranged a deal with Google in which the tech company had a certain amount of sway in how it would be portrayed in the movie. In a CNN piece at the time, writer Heather Kelly noted, “Google didn’t pay 20th Century Fox, but in exchange for its cooperation, the filmmakers gave the company some control over how its products were shown on-screen.” And Google co-founder Larry Page explained the company’s decision to get involved with The Internship by saying, “(C)omputer science has a marketing problem. We’re the nerdy curmudgeons.”
Despite some light jokes about tech dorks, The Internship felt like an extended ad for Google’s unexamined awesomeness, which ran counter to the anarchic spirit of Wedding Crashers.
Speaking of which, that earlier film’s spirit was aided by the fact that it was rated R, allowing Steve Faber and Bob Fisher’s screenplay to feature plenty of swearing and off-color humor. When Levy was making The Internship, he actually didn’t know if the film would end up R or PG-13. This is not an unusual situation, but when Vaughn talked about a month prior to the movie’s release, his answer wasn’t very reassuring. “This movie has adultness to it because we’re in the workforce, but it doesn’t necessarily have as much sexual stuff going on,” he said. “So it’s not really important. We just go to each scene … and try to just be funny for what the scene calls for. We don’t want to have to try to be extreme just to be extreme because we’re trying to earn some kind of an R rating. … I don’t really feel it’ll make that much of a difference.”
It’s stupid to equate good comedy with cursing and sexual innuendo. And Wedding Crashers wasn’t funny simply because it contained a lot of both. But Wedding Crashers worked, in large part, because of its R-rated attitude, pushing the boundaries of good taste at the service of really amusing characters and situations. By comparison, The Internship, which ended up rated PG-13, just seemed timid in both its humor and its edginess. Even worse, the movie felt watered-down, as if everybody involved decided to play it safe in order to court a larger audience. The interactions between Vaughn and Wilson weren’t as hilarious. The supporting characters weren’t as enjoyable or weird. The love interest was a lot duller, even though she’s played by the excellent Rose Byrne, who mostly seems hemmed in by the mediocre script.
And here’s the other thing: As raunchy as Wedding Crashers was, it also had a lot of heart. But The Internship, as with just about everything Levy makes, was just disposable and soulless.
Between the pathetic polishing of Google’s reputation and the tired shtick — once again Vaughn was the outrageous loudmouth, while Wilson was the sweetheart — the film got massacred by critics when it opened June 7, 2013. As for audiences, they correctly sensed this wasn’t a proper Wedding Crashers reunion and stayed away. Wedding Crashers pulled in $288 million worldwide. The Internship only grossed $93 million. Nobody thought about the movie ever again, unless they were wanting to compile a list of films that tried to make tech companies seem benevolent.
A few years later, Vaughn (who also served as a producer) reflected on The Internship’s failure. He went back to the PG-13 rating. “The Internship was supposed to be an R-rated comedy,” he recalled. “Right before we started shooting, the studio said they wanted to go PG-13. I said I just didn’t see that. I said we’d do it both ways and then make the call. But the ship had sailed, and I found myself in a movie that was PG-13, which was not my initial intent.”
Would The Internship have been a comedy classic with an R rating? I don’t think so — the Google worship would still be annoying — but we’ll never know.
Beloved on-screen duos will sometimes reunite, although not for a sequel to what they’ve done before. Inexplicably, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere made another movie after Pretty Woman that wasn’t Pretty Woman 2. (It was Runaway Bride, how could you have forgotten?) Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau did Odd Couple and Grumpy Old Men movies, but also did standalone comedies. In these cases, it’s not the franchise that means as much as the duo: We’re buying a ticket to see them back on-screen together, no matter the vehicle.
No doubt Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson hoped the same would prove true for them. But although The Internship featured the Wedding Crashers twosome, it lacked the crucial Vaughn and Wilson qualities that had made their pairing so enjoyable in the first place. The Internship is about two aging dudes trying to prove they’ve still got it. It mostly succeeded in making Wedding Crashers feel like it had come out a long, long time ago.