Thursday, June 6, 2013

Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson go Google

Google may be a high-tech mecca, but The Internship downloads few laughs.
Just what we needed, another fish-out-of-water comedy, this one starring motor mouth Vince Vaughn and reliable goofball Owen Wilson. Make that two fish out of water.

The new comedy, The Internship, focuses on a couple of displaced salesmen who attempt a leap into the digital age.

Absent any other opportunities, this duo of former watch salesmen applies for an internship at Google's California headquarters, the high-tech playground where some of the movie was filmed.

The comedy mostly centers on the way two relics of the old economy try to blend with bright, young hotshots. These youthful techies also face an uncertain economic future, but they're totally prepared for the information-oriented economy that's beginning to attain near-imperial stature.

Overly long and not especially funny, The Internship -- which was directed by Shawn Levy (Date Night) -- misses a chance to bring a sharp satirical edge to material that seems ripe for it. Vaughn plays Billy, a character so mired in the '80s, he uses Flashdance as a source of inspiration. It's not a great joke to begin with, but then the movie acts as if it actually believes that Flashdance really did have something useful to say.

Working from a script by Vaughn and Jared Stern, Levy keeps the humor on obvious levels, but it's not easy to believe that two guys in their 40s could be this deficient in "technical" knowledge, particularly Vaughn's character, who's made to seem dumber than he needs to be.

An example: Instead of talking about going on-line, Billy talks about going "on the line." If that's your idea of wit, have it, but that (and much else about The Internship) struck me as strained and slightly pathetic.

Levy seems to be trying to freshen an old formula by setting his comedy in the middle of a high-tech mecca where the two older guys become part of a team that's competing with other teams for permanent jobs at Google, which the movie seems to regard as the equivalent of ascension into heaven.

The competition makes it possible to add characters who presumably are meant to woo a younger demographic. Dylan O'Brien plays the bright but jaded young teammate; Tobit Raphael portrays a home-schooled Asian mama's boy, and Tiya Sircar appears as the girl in the group who pretends to be more street smart than she really is. Josh Brener plays the team leader, the Google employee who's supposed to whip his charges into fighting shape.

In addition to designing apps and learning how to work Google's help line, the teams even square off in a Quiddich match.
I doubt that we needed more evidence that Google is a nesting place for the kind of young people who are fluent in Harry Potter-speak. At times, the movie makes Google look like summer camp for nerds with Type-A personalities.

Aasif Mandvi provides additional support as the stern Google manager who oversees the competition, and Max Minghella plays an overly competitive and eminently dislikable rival of our sometimes feckless heroes.

Being a red-blooded adult, Wilson's character falls for an older Googler played by Rose Byrne about whom, in this instance, there's little worth saying.

Cameo appearances from Will Ferrell and John Goodman are funnier than some of the more extended roles, although Goodman's playing a variation on the kind of supposedly savvy hustler he's played many times before.

You won't be surprised to know that Vaughn and Wilson, reprising their previous teaming in Wedding Crashers (2005), wind up helping their younger charges, cementing an otherwise uneasy relationship. A night of club-hopping in San Francisco helps build a bridge between generations.

Vaughn does his talk-fast, say-little shtick, as someone in the movie points out; Wilson relies on his oddball sincerity, and the whole thing passes without downloading enough laughs to make it a summer stand-out.

Put another way: Google top funny comedies, and The Internship isn't likely to show up -- unless of course Google -- which, among other things, comes off looking like a beehive of busy creativity -- compiles the list.

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