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Can it really be eight years since Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson teamed up for the comedy smash WEDDING CRASHERS? Yup, when they say time flies sometimes it speeds by like a rocket (or a certain caped Kryptonian). That flick showed that R-rated laugh fests could be profitable once again and paved the way for Judd Apatow and the HANGOVER trilogy. Since then both actors have kept fairly busy with Owen co-starring in the occasional rom-com and Vaughn honing his fast-talking wiseguy character. Now the boys have partnered up once more. They’re not the hard partyin’ “playas” from the last decade. The territory is PG-13 for this outing, because they’re not trying to score babes. These now forty-somethings are trying to score a job, a gig pursued by folks half their age. Such is the plot of their new comic caper THE INTERNSHIP.

Modern technology has broken up tag-team salesmen Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson). While pitching a new line of wrist watches  to a department store chain, the guys are told that their company is folding. Their boss (John Goodman) is retiring since nobody wears watches anymore, they just check the time on their cellular devices! While searching for a new job online (or as he says,”On the line”), Billy hatches a plan! He and Nick will apply for an internship to Google that will hopefully lead to a full-time gig! The fellas bluff their way through an online interview and soon head to San Francisco home of the search engine’s high-tech headquarters for the vetting process. Upon entering this wonderland the guys encounter the arrogant, pompous competitor Graham (Max Minghella) and their all-business, hard-nosed supervisor of the intern program Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi). Oh, and Nick spots the lovely harried exec Dana (Rose Byrne). Soon all the hopeful applicants are divided into teams  to compete in five challenges that will decide who stays and who goes home. None of the eager twenty year-olds want the two old dudes, so they’re put with the misfits that weren’t quickly snatched up: surly Stuart (Dylan O’Brien), naïve’ Neha (Tiya Sircar) and shy overachiever Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael), all supervised by nerdy young company man Lyle (Josh Brener). Can this ragtag team rise to these challenges and defeat the bullying Graham and impress Mr. Chetty and score their dream jobs? Do you really wonder?

As you may have guessed we’ve got a modern-day tech-savy version of the old comedy staple plot from the 1980’s: the snobs versus the slobs. Or the misfit underdogs against the privileged poshes. This goes all the way back to ANIMAL HOUSE through CADDYSHACK and THE REVENGE OF THE NERDS. And with the older duo we’ve got the fish-out-of-water idea from LEGALLY BLONDE with a twist of the sage wisdom from BACK TO SCHOOL. The heroes reluctantly team-up, bicker, break up, come together (after a wild night on the town), and finally bond before facing the final obstacles when the kids see that these oldsters really are alright! We can almost see the plot frame-work on screen. Shawn Levy has crafted some of the more entertaining  recent comedies of the last few years (NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, DATE NIGHT), but can’t inject any new life into these tired shenanigans. Even a sequence derived from the Harry Potter flicks seems forced and, yes, dated.

The energetic cast can’t kickstart this vintage comedy vehicle. Vaughn is still the motor-mouth with a heart of gold, but in several scenes he seems to be just spinning his wheels, ad-libbing in hopes that some gem will emerge while the cameras roll. For much of the time Wilson is pedalling hard, trying to keep up. Later he’s the more level-headed of the pair, almost the straight man who must engage in flirty banter with Byrne, who’s wasted in the clichéd role of the cold fish jolted into life by free-spirited Nick. The young actors playing Billy and Nick’s team mates are doing their best, but they come off as standard college comedy types rather than real people. Manfi’s doing a fine modern spin on the glowering Professor Kingsfield from THE PAPER CHASE. Minghella is the standard evil grinning mastermind (almost expected to see him rub his hands together as he plotted against our heroes), while we await his inevitable comeuppance. And we wait a very looong time! Can no one pace a comedy these days (I’m looking at you Apatow!)? Two hours are at least 20 minutes too long for such a trifle. These two founding members of the “frat pack” still have their comedy chops. Let’s hope it’s not another eight before they find something that’s much more worthy of their talents.

2.5 Out of 5


Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.

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