Review: 'The Internship' bogs down searching for laughs

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What you see is what you get (or make that WYSIWYG in newfangled Internet speak) in "The Internship," the first pairing of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson's since the 2005 blockbuster comedy "Wedding Crashers." And while the chemistry between the two stars thankfully remains the same after eight years apart, the by-the-numbers script of "The Internship" -- co-written by Vaughn -- keeps the film from becoming nothing more than a safe and barely average comedy at best.

Vaughn and Wilson star as Billy and Nick -- a pair of super-slick wrist watch salesmen who find out in a cruel but funny scene to open the movie that they've suddenly joined the ranks of the unemployed. An antiquated pair of 40-something pitchmen in the digital age, Billy and Nick appear to have few options ahead of them, until they do what they do best and talk their way through an online interview with a pair of Google screeners to be accepted by the search giant's internship program.

Standing out like a couple of dinosaurs amid a sea of about 100 20-something tech geniuses as they arrive on Google's campus in San Francisco, Billy and Nick find themselves quickly isolated -- until the unforgiving process of elimination lands them in a group made up of other intern outcasts. The unfortunate reality is, even the young nerds they're paired with can't stand being around them -- a dynamic that's going to have to change if the group is to gel well enough to win a competition that guarantees all team members coveted jobs at Google.

See the trailer for "The Internship" below.

Apart from brief sparks of laughter here and there-- including a great cameo at the beginning by a comedy star who will go unnamed -- the first half of "The Internship" is dreadfully unfunny. If it manages anything, it makes you feel as uncomfortable as Billy and Nick are as they try to find a way to fit in with some smarmy tech geeks who don't know the first thing about interpersonal communication.

Alas, the tone of "The Internship" changes when Billy and Nick have their first breakthough during a "Harry Potter"-inspired Quidditch match, where the sports-metaphor speaking duo plays on a field they can understand and teaches their young counterparts a thing or two about teamwork and face-to-face communication -- a relevant theme that carries the rest of the movie.

Not surprisingly, the outcome of "The Internship" is hopelessly predictable. But thanks to the natural charm of Vaughn, Wilson and Rose Byrne (who co-stars as a Google workaholic who strikes Nick's fancy), the film picks up in the latter half and manages to pull off a half-way decent conclusion -- even if we're to believe that a pair of tech-inept guys quickly adjust to their brave new digital world surroundings.

While the reception of this film will likely be tepid, Vaughn and Wilson will no doubt emerge unscathed from "The Internship" -- but for a couple of actors who have far more talent than they show in the film, they better hop online fast and Google a term rarely found in Hollywood these days: Originality.

Right now the only thing the search turns up is "disappointment."

"The Internship," rated PG-13, 2 stars out of four.

What other local critics are saying ...

Chris Hewitt gives "The Internship" 1 star in his Pioneer Press review, calling it "bland, long and unfunny." He also remarked that he enjoyed the "clever closing credits created by Google" more than the film itself.

Cynthia Dickison of the Star Tribune gives the movie 2 1/2 stars, saying it "skates by on the sheer likability of its stars."

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