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MOVIE REVIEW: 'The Internship' a boring bait-and-switch

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"The Internship" stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital world. Trying to prove they are not obsolete, they defy the odds by talking their way into a coveted internship at Google, along with a battalion of brilliant college students. But, gaining entrance to this utopia is only half the battle. Now they must compete with a group of the nationis most elite, tech-savvy geniuses, to prove that necessity really is the mother of re-invention.

The Internship

(PG-13)

1 1/2 out of 4 stars

Teaming as co-leads for the first time since the vastly superior "Wedding Crashers" from 2005, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson attempt, with little success, to include the same kind of sardonic edge or ribald humor in "The Internship."

Co-written by producer Vaughn and director Shawn Levy, the movie is a cloying, eager-to-please, painfully overlong non-comedy that wastes many an opportunity to mine two extremely ripe and topical situations (the U.S. job market and the mammoth influence of Google) and instead presents itself as a generic, campus-based sitcom.

Not quite aware that their encyclopedic knowledge of '70s and '80s pop culture serve little use in the lean-and-mean 21st century, old-school street salesmen Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) find out too late that the demand for wristwatches has all but vanished and they must start over from scratch.

Happily satisfied with just getting by, Nick quickly takes a job selling mattresses for his sister's vile boyfriend while Billy shoots for the moon by believing he and Nick have a realistic shot at making the cut as interns at Google. Believing their canned shtick, back-slapping charm and faux-enthusiasm can outweigh their total lack of technical savvy, the pair relocates from Atlanta to San Francisco with a snowball's chance of success.

It becomes clear the screenplay is going to play it super safe when Billy and Nick end up with four, mega-PC oddball youngsters the rest of the ultra-snob geeks pass over. In order to be even considered for future employment, the 20 or so assembled teams are put through a battery of tests that will allow them to exhibit their smarts, creativity and ability to work as a cohesive unit. Seizing upon their dated, yet considerable interpersonal skills, Billy and Nick act as coaches/mentors/cheerleaders to their exceedingly gifted but socially awkward/challenged teammates.

It's hard to fathom why Google -- such a cutting-edge, progressive, brand-conscious company that so fervently guards its image -- would want to be associated with such a low-brow, sophomoric production. Shot in and around the playground-themed Google campus, the film is effectively a feature-length infomercial with endless product placement and the constant mantra/corporate drumbeat. It would be a safe assumption that, in exchange for the use of the company name and facility, the Google board had a big say regarding the content of the screenplay and it shows. Google is never portrayed in anything but the best, snowy-white light.

Coming to the conclusion that top-loading the story with techno-jargon would quickly cause the eyes of the audience to glaze over, the writers instead go heavy with glorified skits that put the accent on slapstick, tepid romance and things having little to do with Google, the Internet in general or the tight job market. They also fail to acknowledge how two broke, unemployed, 40-something men with no income can afford to live in San Francisco for an entire summer.

In addition to becoming nothing it set out to be, "The Internship" is stuck in not one, but two cinematic dead zones. The two leads will hopefully rope-in their similarly aged fan base, but these are also people (mostly guys) used to seeing them in raunchy, R-rated flicks. While Vaughn and Levy take the PG-13 rating as far as they can, it will still be too wimpy for dedicated "Frat Pack" followers. The closest the movie ever gets to daring is during an evening "field trip" that takes the team to a high-end club that features scantily-clad dancers, lots o' flesh, copious amounts of booze and (of course) a bar brawl.

For tech-infatuated teens and other gadget-obsessed types, "The Internship" will be viewed as a super-square, bait-and-switch yawner. They, too, have become used to productions far racier than this and the substitution of sex, drugs and rock and roll with non-humor their parents may or may not laugh at simply won't cut it. They'll likely take a pass and wait just five more days for the far-funnier, much-dirtier and eminently more-interesting "This is the End." (Fox)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eckAaoKAYpk